Pastoral Notes for Sunday, October 20, 2019

On Saturday, October 12, the Cornerstone men enjoyed a beautiful day of teaching and fellowship at the Rau-wood Retreat Center in Franklin. If you weren’t able to be with us, I don’t mean to rub it in, but you really missed out on something special. From the gorgeous fall weather, to the truths we reflected on, to the cornhole competition, to the small group discussion, to Ali Faulk’s cinnamon rolls and Dickey’s barbeque—truly, it was a marvelous day.

After the retreat, several brothers said it was the most meaningful time they’ve shared with the men of Cornerstone. That’s high praise! I’d like to publicly thank Ron Moffat, Matt Faulk, Carl Ware, Will Hendrian, and Matt Suits for leading the way. We were the beneficiaries of your kind labors, brothers. So grateful!

As the retreat was wrapping up, a desire was voiced by some of the men to put what we learned into action and start meeting together in smaller groups. Stirred by the vision of Hebrews 10:19-25, we were sensing God calling us to more—to become a brotherhood committed to helping one another press on in the walk of faith.  

What prompted this response? Well, interestingly, it wasn’t some profound new insight or discovery. It wasn’t even anything that is unique to men. The point is so basic and universally applicable that it’s embarrassing how often we forget it. The point is this: spiritual health and growth depends on… drum roll… meeting together. See, I told you it was pretty basic. But truth be told, how often do we neglect it?

I was at a conference a few years back when the pastor sitting next to me saw on Facebook that one of his parishioners was leaving the Christian faith. The pastor was shocked at first. Then, upon reflection, he confessed that he could see this coming. The indicator? The member backed away from their small group a couple of years ago. They had become very sporadic at worship and ceased responding to overtures from folks who missed them and were concerned about them. In short, they were drifting away from the church and eventually drifted away from Christ altogether. Was missing church the only issue? Of course not. There was plenty of worldliness and more than a few unrepentant sins behind the scenes. But disappearance from church life was the first visible indicator of spiritual trouble.

 As you know, we live in an easy-come, easy-go church culture. Sunday worship often takes a backseat to travel, sports, and brunch, and regular fellowship with a small group is considered a spiritual accessory that’s optional at best. When this is the “air” around us, there’s a need for the “wind” of the Spirit to blow again like it did in the early church, when God’s people met with great frequency because they wanted to be together and believed their spiritual life and vitality depended on the fellowship (Acts 2:42-47).

Would you take a moment right now to pray for Cornerstone family? Pray that we’d grow to look more like the church of Acts 2:42-47. Pray that our love and commitment for one another would increasingly mirror the love and commitment Jesus Christ has for us. Pray that we’d increasingly act like our spiritual life and vitality depends in great measure on spending lots of time together.

Because it does.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, October 13, 2019

I’m thankful that the church I grew up in emphasized Scripture memory. For during my grammar school years, I was forced (that’s how it felt) to memorize scores of key passages on various topics, many of which I still remember today.

One favorite topic for Scripture memory was using time wisely. Passages like: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time…” (Ephesians 5:15-16) and “So, teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) were go-to texts for training us youngsters to not be wasteful of God’s precious gift of time.

Though I can’t say anyone ever said it this way, the fact is I took these verses to be saying that true wisdom requires that I use my time to do as many good things as I can as excellently as I can for the glory of God. There’s a lot to commend in this takeaway. For starters, working hard, doing things excellently, and keeping the glory of God front and center are all key biblical emphases.

But there was something missing—something that didn’t quite register until I was in my Synoptic Gospels class in seminary. We had just finished identifying key aspects in Mark’s writing style: a quick paced narrative focused on the action-packed nature of Jesus ministry. I remember thinking that Jesus’ life must have been a whirling dervish of ministry activity. He was always casting out demons, performing miracles, and preaching the gospel.

To be honest, I liked the sound of that. In fact, the frenetic, fast-paced nature of Mark’s gospel fit the lifestyle commitments I imbibed as a kid. Now, as a wannabe pastor, I wanted more than ever for my life to count. In the words of the great Baptist missionary William Carey, I was ready “To expect great things from God. And attempt great things for God.”  

At this point, the professor drew the class’s attention to Mark 1:35-39, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”

“In the midst of all the ministry activity, what do you notice?” the professor asked. I thought to myself, “Ah, yes. We need to spend time in prayer before we go do ministry.” (That’s true, of course, but according to the professor, that’s not the focus of the text.) “Notice,” he said, “Jesus schedule was always full to overflowing, but he only did the things he was called to do. In all his many doings, Jesus stayed faithful to his life’s mission. Always.”

And just like that it hit me. Meeting everybody’s needs was not mission-critical for Jesus. Even when the disciples pressed the shame-inducing statement, “Everyone is looking for you,” Jesus was unfazed. He remained focused; his eyes on the mission. “Let’s go onto the next towns,” he said. Jesus knew the reason he was on the earth, and he wasn’t letting anyone or anything stand in the way.

 That day in class changed my life, for it was the first time I realized that I didn’t have to let the clamor of unmet needs and ministry opportunities dictate my day to day. In a word, I learned that God’s purpose for my life should set the priorities of my life. Though it’s taken years, and I’ve still got a ways to go, I am learning how to say “No” to many good and important things in order to say, “Yes” to what I know God is calling me to do. I am learning that to know one’s purpose and to let that purpose shape the priorities of life is a big part of what having a heart of wisdom is all about.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, October 6, 2019

First of all, what a treat it was to gather last Saturday for the fall Cornerstone picnic. Though the temperature wasn’t quite as cool as we hoped, the food was delicious, the kids had a blast, and the fellowship was sweet. A BIG “thank you” to our Hospitality Team for their hard work, especially Missy Chapman and Sharon Haney! We couldn’t have done it without your faithful labors.

Then, on Sunday, after a glorious morning of worship, we closed the Lord’s Day with Rev. Ben Griffith’s installation service. And what a great celebration it was! Rev. Matt Bradley from All Saints Presbyterian Church in Brentwood and Rev. Casey Cramer from Christ Community Church in Franklin delivered wise and tender charges to the Session of Cornerstone and to Rev. Ben Griffith respectively. It was also a delight it to have Rev. Brian Phillips from Parish Presbyterian Church and Rev. Vinny Athey, RUF at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, serve on the commission. (Vinny is Ben Griffith’s brother in law!)  

And, how about that reception? I told you it was going to be good. Christy Shurden and a host of Cornerstone ladies outdid themselves, which is saying something. They certainly pulled together quite the feast. David Steffens and our deacons were all hands on deck, making sure the tent was up, lights were strung, and the grounds were in good order for the festivities. Thanks to all of you! You’re the best. You really are.

Seeing you all under the tent with the cascading glow of light spilling over the grounds, listening to the squeals of children playing, and the laughter of saints enjoying true fellowship around a feast for the ages was a vision for me—a vision of what the church is to be about. Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that thought. A number of you have said that the installation service and reception was one of the most spiritually edifying events you’ve ever been a part of in a long time. Indeed it was; a real glimpse into the glory the church is destined for, a true foretaste of our future life together before the throne of grace.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, September 29, 2019

Reverend Ben Griffith’s Installation Service

On the behalf of the Nashville Presbytery and the Session of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, you are cordially invited to attend Rev. Ben Griffith’s Installation Service tonight in the chapel at 6pm with a church-wide fellowship to follow. Please make plans to attend this beautiful service of celebration as we rejoice in God’s kind provision of Rev. Ben Griffith.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…”—Ephesians 4:11-12

“So I exhort you elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the suffering of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”—1 Peter 5:1-4