Pastoral Notes for Sunday, August 25, 2019

We announced a month ago that the elders extended a call to Rev. Ben Griffith to be an Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone. As you might imagine, Ben and his wife, Rebecca, have been busy making all the necessary preparations for the big move to Franklin—selling a home, buying a home, packing, registering for school, etc. Thankfully, if all goes according to plan, the preparation to move stage will end this week. Lord willing, the Griffith’s will close on their house in Franklin and move this week!

 As they take this big step, continue praying for them. Pray practically for the details of the closing and move to go smooth. But more importantly, pray for their hearts. They are leaving a sweet community in Hattiesburg, MS, and it’s hard to say so many tearful goodbyes and turn around and say many excited hellos. Pray especially for their sweet children—Margaret (10), Owen (8), and Elizabeth “Libby” (5). They will see Franklin and their new home for the first time this week! Pray their first few days in Franklin are filled with surprising joys and new anticipations.

Thanks to the many of you who have asked what you can do to welcome the Griffith’s to Franklin and Cornerstone. My wife, Christy, has pulled together a team of folks that are preparing meals and helping care for the needs of the Griffith’s during the transition. If you are interested in being included in some way, feel free to drop Christy a line at cjshurden@yahoo.com.

As we prepare for Ben to join the pastoral staff, it’s appropriate to ask the question, “What exactly will Ben be doing?” Like Tony and I, Ben’s first and primary responsibility will be to care for the flock of God at Cornerstone. He will spend the majority of his time ministering the ordinary means of grace—teaching, preaching, leading, and discipling the congregation at large. Ben will spend a smaller, more concentrated portion of his time serving our youth ministry, primarily through equipping and training volunteers, ministering to families, and teaching on Wednesday nights.

One of the many things that drew us to Ben was his desire and gifting to work with the whole church in a variety of different capacities. You will see Ben in the pulpit, behind the lectern, in a small group, at a hospital bedside, across the table at Merridee’s, and just about everywhere in between. He strives to be a pastor who serves God’s people according to the priorities of the Bible, believing that happens most effectively when the shepherd is with the sheep. I am personally delighted at Ben’s eagerness to get-to-know you and throw himself into the work of ministry at Cornerstone, so that we might further our mission: “To glorify God in the gospel together as disciples who make disciples.”

   

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, August 18, 2019

With the start of the fall term of Sunday School ministries, I’ve asked the various leaders of these discipleship ministries to give us a preview of what is coming up during the next few months.

Children’s Sunday School: The children’s Sunday school classes will study a variety of topics this fall and throughout the school year. Our youngest children will be learning about how God created all things and about the promises God has given his people to redeem the world. The younger elementary classes will be studying what worship is and why we worship. The older elementary classes will study and memorize the New City Catechism with the goal of learning sound doctrine and biblical truths. The 6th graders will complete a New Testament survey throughout the course of the year. We are so thankful for great teachers and materials to help our children grow in their faith. 

Koinonia Class: For the Fall, The Koinonia Class will continue our discussion of Romans—currently about half way through. We plan to join the Chapel Class for the Aging Matters class from October 13- November 10.

 Chapel Class and Youth: In this seven-week series, entitled Upon This Rock: Foundations for Life Together Pastor Nate with others from the church staff are returning to our key vision and value commitments; that we might renew our commitment to God’s glorious vision for the church. These topics will be taught to adults in the Chapel Class and to the Youth at Merridees at the same time.

The Gospel Centered Life: Keeping First Things First 

Going the Next Step: Applying the Gospel to the Heart 

The Body of Christ: How the Gospel Builds Community 

Christ’s Church, Christ’s Way: Trusting the Means of Grace 

A Worshipping Community: Praising the God of the Gospel  

A Discipling Community: Growing Together in the Gospel  

A Missional Community: Living for the Spread of the Gospel

 Following this series, the Youth will proceed with a study on their own, and the Chapel class will start a series on Aging Matters.

Chapel Class and Koinonia Class—October 13-November 10

“Guidance from God (and advice from one another) for engaging with our aging” 

That’s a modified line from the sub-title of J.I. Packer’s excellent book entitled Finishing Our Course with Joy.  It’s also an apt description of a brief series Aging Matters, October 13 - November 10.

You will hear from a variety of presenters from our church family covering such matters as biblical principles for finishing well, estate planning and wills, funerals and end-of-life decisions. This will benefit you personally or as one of those helping aging parents address these important matters. Aging is a reality to both embrace and (yes) enjoy, for as Psalm 92 teaches us, the righteous still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green. 

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, August 11, 2019

God Meant It For Good: An Introduction To The Joseph Story

For good reason, the Joseph story is one of the most beloved in all the Scriptures. Of all the characters in Genesis, Joseph is among the most exemplary in character. He trusts and obeys the Lord despite many tragic circumstances. In fact, things go poorly for Joseph right from the beginning, yet as one heartbreaking event after another unfolds, God’s providence intervenes again and again to rescue and redeem.

The Joseph narrative is “a hero story par excellence” according to Leland Ryken. From the key characters, to the setting, to the intrigue and suspense—all woven together with the presence, power, and plan of God—makes the Joseph story one of the most captivating redemption stories in the Bible.

With that said, questions exist about whether the Joseph story occupies the same level of significance in redemptive history as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s stories. For instance, throughout the Bible, we read about the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Gen. 50:24, Ex. 3:5, Acts 7:32), but Joseph’s name is never included in the list. A variety of explanations have been advanced over the years; some suggesting it’s best not to think of Joseph as a patriarch but to instead approach the story as a historical bridge. That is, a story that connects the books of Genesis and Exodus by giving historical explanation for how God’s people end up in Egypt. 

Though it is true enough that the Joseph story is a historical retelling that gives explanation for why Exodus opens in Egypt, this explanation alone doesn’t go far enough. It says nothing for instance about the theological basis or spiritual purpose behind the narrative. When we take in the whole of the Joseph narrative, the theological and spiritual import comes clear. In short, the Joseph narrative is first and foremost a story of the faithfulness of God to His covenantal promises through the display of his providential power and care.

This is best summarized in the key verse of the Joseph story, Genesis 50:20. As one of the most powerful men in the world at the time, Joseph looks at his needy brothers who decades earlier sold him into slavery. As readers, we half expect Joseph to let them have it, but Joseph does no such thing. Instead, he sees his unjust suffering as a part of God’s sovereign plan of salvation: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, for the saving of many lives”(Gen. 50:20). In a sentence, Joseph summarized the truth of his life and the place of his story in redemptive history. For God meaning for good what we mean for evil and saving many lives in the process reflects the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On that note, God means good for us in the study of Joseph this fall. Do not miss the blessing He has in store for you! Commit to read each week in the devotional as we course through selected Scriptures, exploring the main themes from the weekly sermon passages. And as we see Joseph suffer, often undeservingly, for the saving of many, let’s look to the greater Joseph, the Lord Jesus Christ, for He alone is the perfect Suffering Servant, who suffered undeservingly for the salvation of many more—even you and me.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, August 4, 2019

In case you missed the announcement last Sunday and the church wide e-mail this week, the elders extended a call to Rev. Ben Griffith to be an Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone. We are thrilled to have Ben and his wife, Rebekah, and their three children—Margaret (10), Owen (8), and Elizabeth “Libby” (5)—join us at Cornerstone. We look forward, Lord willing, to many years of serving together in fruitful ministry.

As we’ve noted in Cornerstone Family Meetings and pastoral notes over the last six months or so, our brother, Rev. Tony Giles, isn’t going anywhere. Praise the Lord! He is, however, scaling back his ministry a bit. Staring July 1, Tony went half time (20hrs. a week) at Cornerstone. The other half of his time is spent working as a gospel coach with Serge, an international missions agency.

As you would expect, Ben will help fill the gap left by the scaling back of Tony’s ministry. Toward that end, Ben will be ministering to the congregation pastorally, preaching and teaching widely, and leading in worship weekly. In addition, Ben will be spending a portion of his time providing leadership and vision to our Youth Ministry.

 The Griffith’s are eager to arrive in Franklin. After this week, they are several steps closer to that reality! For starters, their home in Hattiesburg has a contract, and they made an offer on a home in the Sullivan Farms neighborhood in Franklin. Both of these steps are big answers to prayer! On that note, please continue praying for the Griffith’s, and we’ll continue to keep you posted on their progress in our direction.  

 

Speaking of progress, we’re closing our series in the beatitudes today, and we’ll reenter the book of Genesis next week together. In this final section of Genesis, we will course through the life of Joseph, exploring themes of faith, suffering, providence, wisdom, reconciliation, and redemption. Below is a week-by-week breakdown of the series.

New Beginnings: A Study of Genesis

·      August 11 – Joseph’s Dream (Genesis 37:1-11)

·      August 18 – Joseph Sold into Slavery (Genesis 37:12-36)

·      August 25 – Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38:1-30)

·      September 1 – Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife (Genesis 39:1-23)

·      September 8 – Joseph Interprets Dreams (Genesis 40:1-23)

·      September 15 – Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dream (Genesis 41:1-40)

·      September 22 – Joseph Rises to Power (Genesis 41:41-57)

·      September 29 – Joseph Brothers Go to Egypt for Help (Genesis 42:1-38)

·      October 6 – Joseph Brothers Return to Egypt (Genesis 43:1-34)

·      October 13 – Joseph Tests His Brothers (Genesis 44:1-34)

·      October 20 – Joseph Provides for His Family (Genesis 45:1-28)

·      October 27 – Joseph Invites His Family to Egypt (Genesis 46:1-34)

·      November 3 – Jacob Settles in Goshen (Genesis 47:1-31)

·      November 10 – Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:1-22)

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, July 28, 2019

On the behalf of the elders, it is my distinct privilege to announce that we have extended a call to Rev. Ben Griffith to be our new Assistant Pastor. Ben hails from Hattiesburg, MS. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg (Go Eagles!) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. Ben is married to Rebekah, and they have three children—Margaret (10), Owen (8), and Elizabeth “Libby” (5).

Over the last twelve years, Ben has served in a variety of ministry roles at The First Presbyterian Church (FPC) in Hattiesburg. From 2007-2014, he was the Director of Student Ministries. In that role, he led large and small group gatherings for youth, equipped and trained youth interns, and worked collaboratively with the presbytery for youth trainings and retreats. In 2014, Ben was called as an Assistant Pastor at FPC, and in 2017 he was called as an Associate Pastor. In both of these roles, he exercised gifts in preaching, teaching, discipleship, and pastoral care congregation wide with particular emphasis in the young adult ministry. 

Ben will be ministering broadly to the congregation, assisting weekly in worship, teaching weekly, and preaching on a regular interval. In addition to these broad pastoral duties, he will give vision and direction to our youth ministry, equip and train youth volunteers, and be the lead teaching voice for our youth on Wednesday nights. 

Ben and Rebekah can’t wait to meet you! In fact, they wanted to send along a brief greeting to all of you: “Greetings from the Griffith’s! We are thrilled to be joining the Cornerstone family, and can’t wait to begin life and ministry with you. We are excited about making Franklin our home and are looking forward what the Lord has in store for us together.”

Before Ben can join us officially, the Nashville Presbytery must approve his transfer. Lord willing, the presbytery will examine him on Tuesday, Aug. 13th. Once the presbytery approves him, he can officially join our pastoral staff at Cornerstone.

If you would, please begin praying for the Griffith’s. This is a bittersweet time. Though excited to throw their lot in with us at Cornerstone, they’re saying many tearful goodbyes over the next few weeks to family and friends in Hattiesburg. Let’s also ask the Lord to go before us and knit our hearts together in love with theirs as soon as they arrive in Franklin.

Finally, I want to thank you for the trust and support you showed to us through the search process. God used your prayers and encouragements to get us to this point, and for that we are thankful. Now, let’s rejoice together! Our God is once again showing His faithfulness to our church!