Pastoral Notes for Sunday, December 3, 2017

You’ve probably noticed the work going on just to the right of the chapel—the dirt work, the pipes, and the slab of concrete. In case you were wondering if the colorful, submarine-looking pipes are going to remain exposed, they’re not. A steel box is going to be placed over the pipes sometime fairly soon, which will ensure safety and, hopefully, ease the look of things. The truth is that sometimes you have to mess things up in order to make things better! In other words, that “mess” you see is actually a sign of progress.

If you’re new with us, you might be wondering, “What exactly are we progressing toward?” Well, about a year ago now, the antebellum home next door, Lillie Belles, was purchased by an investor and leased to the owners of the very successful Nashville restaurant, Biscuit Love. As a part of the renovation process, Biscuit Love is putting in a sprinkler system as required by Franklin Fire Marshall’s office. As most of you know, the Fire Marshall is requiring us to do the same thing. Very graciously, our new neighbors offered to pay for the underground utility work for the project and are allowing us to tap into the new sprinkler water line. That gesture of kindness saved us thousands of dollars!

Now that all the underground work is complete, the same contractor who did Biscuit Love’s work has added us to their active project list. We are currently revisiting initial estimates for the project. Once that work is done we will meet again with the Fire Marshal to begin the approval process, and the permitting process with the Franklin Codes Department will follow. If there are no setbacks along the way, our sprinkler system project should begin late winter or early spring. We are hopeful that this new sprinkler system will ensure the safety of our congregation as well as preserving our building in the unlikely event of a fire.

Speaking of safety, I mentioned three weeks ago that a team of Cornerstone officers and volunteers were working on making several significant advances to our onsite security plan. Two weeks ago the Cornerstone leadership met and approved a full security assessment with Agape Tactical, a faith-based organization that provides comprehensive and actionable security plans for churches in order to protect persons, facilities, and information. During our regularly scheduled worship services this last week, representatives from Agape Tactical conducted a full security assessment of the church. Our security team met this week to review their recommendations and to prioritize next steps.

If you’d like to learn more or even volunteer to serve on our security team, please reach out to Jim Robinson at jc2robinson@comcast.net. If you are interested in learning more about the sprinkler upgrade, please contact Jim Smith at jims@svmic.com. These brothers would be delighted to answer any questions you might have about either project.

Please continue to pray with us as together we strive, with the Lord’s help, to make Cornerstone a better and safer place to gather, fellowship, learn, and worship. 

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, November 26, 2017

As is our custom at Cornerstone, we are taking time in the four weeks leading up to Christmas—traditionally called Advent—to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. This year I’ve entitled our Advent Series, “The Lord Is In Your Midst.” To help you prepare for worship each week, I’ve posted the Scripture readings and titles for each Sunday of Advent below.

·      December 3— “Hope In The Lord” (Psalm 146) 

·      December 10— “The Lord is Mighty To Save” (Zephaniah 3:14-20)

·      December 17— “Come and See the Salvation Of The Lord” (Isaiah 52:7-10)

·      December 24— “We Have Seen A Great Light” (Isaiah 9:2-7) 

As we move from Old Testament promise to New Testament fulfillment, my prayer is that we will learn the godly discipline of eagerly waiting for the long-time-in-coming Savior. For by looking back and remembering His first advent, we also prepare for His second advent. Therefore, let us not to slumber nor sleep in our waiting, but instead trim our lamps, stay awake, and be ready for whenever the Bridegroom returns (Matthew 25).

Speaking of preparation let me encourage you to read well this Advent. You will find some excellent (and very reasonably priced!) titles at “The Bookshelf” on the second floor landing. So many good ones but let me briefly recommend two for now:

The One True Gift: Daily Readings for Advent to Encourage and Inspire – This work by British writer, Tim Chester, is a great addition to the growing collection of Advent devotional books. In Twenty-four bite size readings, Tim slowly peels back the layers of the beautiful Christ hymn, Philippians 2:5-11. With ideas for reflection, prayer, and applications these daily readings can be enjoyed individually or for the whole family. A must read this Christmas!

Come Let Us Adore Him – This work by pastor and best selling author Paul David Tripp is designed to freshen your sense of wonder and awe of Christmas. Each devotional begins with a foundational truth of the gospel that is then explained, expanded, and applied in the following meditation. Listing Scriptures for further study, key words, and guided instruction for parents and children, this devotional assists everyone in doing what matters most this Christmas—adoring our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, November 19, 2017

What are you doing to ready your heart for Thanksgiving? Regardless of the kind of year you’ve had, Scripture teaches us to see all circumstances—good and bad—as an opportunity to give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18). That’s easier said than done, however. How are we to spot these good and perfect gifts that have come down to us from the Father of Lights (James 1:16-18)? 

Below are three simple instructions for preparing your heart to give thanks this Thanksgiving:

1. Take time to remember the experiences of this past year. Pay attention to what God’s providence has brought into your life. Review each month slowly and gain a sense for the narrative flow of the year. Take special note of the watershed moments and the smaller formative times where emotional memory is stored—times of great joy or sadness. Commit these moments to writing and add any on-the-spot reflections you may have. 

2. Take time to trace these remembrances to the purposes of God. Since God is sovereignly directing all things according to His purposes (Romans 8:28-30), nothing in your life this year is without meaning. Therefore, take time to consider how the glory of God is being expressed in what you’ve experienced this year. Though you will be tempted to neglect the hard or difficult memories from this past year, please don’t. Prayerfully ask God for the eyes to see and heart to interpret each experience—good or bad—according to the redemptive purposes of God (Philippians 2:13).   

3. Take time to share what you see with others. After you’ve remembered and begun tracing these experiences to God’s purposes, share what you’ve learned with others. Take time over Thanksgiving Dinner with the family or set aside a few moments at a quieter time with a few close friends to share how God has been at work. Whatever the context, be intentional in your sharing and make much of God.  

“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, Make known His deeds among the peoples, Proclaim that His name is exalted.”

—Isaiah 12:3b

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, November 12, 2017

If you were asked to define true and faithful religion, how would you do it? I wonder if you would use James’ definition: “Religion that our God and Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Really? Keeping oneself unstained from the world makes sense, but widow and orphan care? No one would deny it’s important, but isn’t it just the particular burden of certain Christians but not others? Is James really suggesting that every disciple of Christ be committed in some way, shape, or form to widow and orphan relief? That’s exactly what James is saying. Let me prove it from the text.

The last half of the verse calls us to holiness, “to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The pursuit of holiness is clearly not optional. It’s the call of every Christian (1 Peter 1:15). Since that is the case, we do not have the interpretive liberty to divide the first half of the verse from the second, identifying one part (holiness) as universal and the other part (orphan and widow care) as optional. Instead, James pairs these these twin callings together as a definition for true religion.

Does not mean everyone is supposed to adopt a child or take in a needy widow? No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that, though, for some, and I pray more and more of us, it will mean exactly that. It does mean, however, that to some degree and in some way, shape, or form every one of us must be committed to the work of widow and orphan care. No one is exempt.

To that end, Cornerstone is joining with thousands of churches across North America in recognizing God’s call and the great need of our time for Orphan Care. Did you know that it is estimated that between 140-150 million children worldwide, ranging from infants to teenagers, have lost one or both parents? In America alone, there are more than 120,000 orphans while another 400,000 children live without permanent families. It is common for children in foster care to age out, leaving them with little financial or emotional support. 27,000 children age out of the system every year. Every day, 5,760 more children in the world become orphans, and every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family and no home. These are staggering statistics!

In light of the Bible’s clear mandate and the current crisis, what are we to do? One way the elders of Cornerstone are answering this call is through the creation of a Cornerstone Adoption Fund. I don’t have to tell you that adoption is very expensive. Many families who desire to adopt choose not to because of the financial demands. In an attempt to bear each other’s burdens in this call, this fund was established to encourage Cornerstone families to adopt and for us as a church family to join with them in it! If you want to give to the Cornerstone Adoption Fund, you can do so now and at any time in the future by writing “Adoption Fund” on the memo of your check. If you want to learn more about the parameters for the disbursement of these funds or how to qualify for adoption funds through Cornerstone, please contact Joe Haworth (jdhaworth@comcast.net) or Jim Smith (jims@svmic.com). They would love to speak with you about it.

As we make strides to answer the orphan crises of our time, let’s do so knowing that we were all orphans once, but God in perfect love determined not to leave us without a Father (John 14:8). In love, He gave his only Son so that in him we might receive the adoption as sons (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5-7). May the adoption heart of God be our heart as together we strive to care for the orphans in our generation.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, November 5th 2017

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement, but to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.”—Timothy Keller

Two years ago the elders of Cornerstone began praying and planning for a new church in the Spring Hill, TN. area. Just over a year ago that praying and planning took a big step forward when a call was extended to Rev. Mike Fennema to be the church planter for the Spring Hill work. Over the last year, Mike and wife, Stephanie, and their four children have poured their lives into Spring Hill community and the work of ministry. God has blessed the fruit of their hands as the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church has steadily grown in size and health.

As the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church anticipates beginning Sunday morning worship early next year, we’re pausing today to celebrate what God has done. I’ve invited Pastor Mike to preach the Word from Mark 10:17-31. In order to better acquaint you with Mike and Stephanie’s history, take a moment to read their bios below and then drop Mike a line or give him a call to learn how you can pray for, support, and even partner with the work of SHPC. 

Mike is a native of the south suburbs of Chicago. He graduated from Calvin College in 2003 and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando in 2008. Before moving to Spring Hill, Mike was a youth pastor at Redeemer Church in Evans, GA and the Senior Pastor of Trinity Fellowship Church in Sherwood, AR.

Stephanie was born in Georgia and grew up in Middle Tennessee. After graduating from Zion Christian Academy in Columbia, she earned her degree from Auburn University and became a Physician’s Assistant through UAB’s PA program. While also a full-time mom to four, she works one day a week at Mulberry Clinics in Spring Hill.

Mike and Stephanie met while living in Orlando and were married in 2006. They have four children: Elliot, Oliver, Mattie Grace, and Abigail. As a family, they enjoy hiking, swimming, raising chickens, family movie nights, and opening their home to others.

Mike may be reached at 501-612-1331 or mike@springhillpca.com.