Pastoral Notes for Sunday, February 18, 2018

“Do not despise the day of small things for God rejoices to see the work began”—Zechariah 4:10

It all started in 1971 in Hattiesburg, MS, at the University of Southern Mississippi. Pastor Mark Lowry began gathering with college students in small groups, opening up the Scripture, ministering the gospel, and teaching the theological distinctions of the reformed faith. It may not have seemed like much then, but God had big plans. Forty-six years later, the ministry of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) is on more than 140 campuses nationwide. From coast to coast, students are being introduced to the doctrines of grace and the Lordship of Christ. Many are learning for the first time how God’s Word impacts every area of life as they are equipped to be life-long servants of the church and the world.

Since our beginning, Cornerstone has partnered with RUF in their mission to bring the message of the gospel to college campuses. Within our presbytery, there are six RUF ministries that we support as a church:

·      Vanderbilt University – Rev. Richie Sessions

·      Belmont University – Kevin Twit

·      Middle Tennessee State University – Matt Alexander

·      Western Kentucky University – Ross Lockwood

·      Austin Peay State University – Rev. Austin Royal

·      Tennessee Tech University  – Rev. Gavin Breeden

Today for worship, we’re taking time to highlight the ministry of RUF. To help us do that, I’ve asked Rev. Gavin Breeden from Tennessee Tech. University to bring God’s Word to us. Gavin grew up down the street in Martin, TN and attended college at UT-Martin where he studied Philosophy. While at UT-Martin, Gavin got involved with RUF where he met Shalaine, a cross country/track star from Henderson, KY. They married in June 2006 and soon thereafter moved to Charlotte, NC for Gavin to attend seminary at Reformed Theological Seminary where he was awarded a Masters of Divinity degree in 2011. After graduation, Gavin accepted a call to be an Assistant Pastor at Northpointe Presbyterian Church in Meridian, MS. In July 2015, the Campus Ministry Committee of the Nashville Presbytery extended a call to Gavin to become our next campus minister at Tennessee Tech. Gavin and Shalaine have three precious children: Addie Pearl (born March 2011), Miles (born May 2013), and Stella (born November 2015).

I get the privilege, along with Ruler Elder Steve Green, to serve on the campus ministry committee of the Nashville Presbytery. We can tell you first hand that Gavin is doing an excellent job serving the truth of God’s Word to the students at Tennessee Tech. Please take time after the service to welcome Gavin to Cornerstone and give close attention to the message he’s come to deliver from Luke 8:26-39.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, February 11, 2018

February 14th is not only Valentines Day this year. It’s also the official beginning of our Wednesday night Lenten season! That means we will gather at 5:30pm as a congregation this Wednesday night for food and fellowship, followed at 6:15pm by a brief Vesper’s service and a special six-week teaching series.

Leaning on the language of James 4:8 and Hebrews 10:19-22, I’ve entitled the teaching series, “Drawing Near to God.” It is a series designed to help us take spiritual inventory of our lives and to explore key Christian practices for an intimate walk with God.

Drawing Near to God

February 14 – Fasting: Making Space for God

February 21 – Retreat: Getting Away with God

February 28 – Meditating: Hearing from God

March 7 – Praying: Speaking with God

March 14 – Fellowship: Meeting with God

March 21 – Discipleship: Becoming like God

Now, if you’re new to the idea of the Lenten season, please know you’re not alone. In fact, Protestant Christians have for centuries been divided on the practice of Lent. It’s not commanded in Scripture and has been prone to abuse at different times throughout church history. So why would Cornerstone choose to practice Lent despite these realities?

Two years ago She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth, an online daily Bible reading program, asked me that question. At their request, I penned a biblical-theological defense for why a Protestant might practice of Lent. I’m republishing that piece below in hopes that it will explain why we’ve chosen to redeem the tradition of the Lenten season as a time of preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Hope you find it helpful.

The grand narrative of God’s Word through history is more than a tall tale. It is a historical record of real events with real people in real places and in real time. Indeed, as Paul makes plain in his letter to the church at Corinth, if Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection did not actually take place in time and space, then all is lost. We of all people are most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:9).

God not only authored the Bible’s true story, He’s its lead actor. Behind the flood, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the rise of King David, the exile and return of Israel, and every other redemptive act—God is present and the prime mover. On every page of the Bible, God is the hero of the story. As the author and hero of redemption, God calls His people to remember the great things He has done (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).

One of the means God used to stir the mind and imaginations of His people to remembrance was a calendar. From the Day of Atonement to the weekly Sabbath, to the annual feasts and festivals, God calendared salvation history in order to help the prone-to-forgetfulness Israelites relive their redemption each year (Leviticus 23). Rightfully so, the shadow of the Old Testament calendar faded in the bright light of Christ’s fulfillment (Colossians 2:16-17). Although God issued no new calendar requirement for the New Testament church, He gave His people the freedom to order their days while maintaining the commitment to remember the redemption of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:4-9, Galatians 3:1-14, Romans 6:5-11, 2 Peter 1:3-11).

Not as a biblical requirement but as a discipleship tool, the early church began marking the days by the life and ministry of Jesus (Advent to Ascension) and the life and ministry of His church (Pentecost to Ordinary Time). Many Christians throughout the centuries have kept the practice, finding it a helpful means of remembering and connecting to both the life of Christ and the reality of His church, reaching around the world and across generations.

In that spirit, we invite you to join us for the forty days of Lent, as we prayerfully prepare for the heartbreaking and heart-mending climax of the Christian year—the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, February 4, 2018

As you’re gathering this morning for worship, I’m doing the same—a few states away in Louisiana. This weekend I’ve had the privilege of ministering to one of our supported church plants, “Parish Church” in Lafayette, LA. Two and a half years ago, Josh and Emily Kines and their five (now six!) kids moved to Cajun country in order to plant the first PCA church in the growing city of Lafayette.

Josh asked if I’d come down to train his leadership team and speak to his congregation as they strive to reach the people of Lafayette and establish the work of Parish Church. As much as I’ll miss being with the Cornerstone family, it’s a treat to partner with Josh and Parish Church as together we labor to see the gospel spread as far as the curse is found.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Parish Church and the ministry of Josh Kines, I’d invite you to visit their website at www.ourparishchurch.com. Take a look at their vision, read about their team, and listen to some sermons. Then, commit to pray for the work of the gospel in Lafayette through Parish Church.

Talking about Parish Church prompts me to encourage you to get to know our supported church plants, campus ministries, missionaries, and educational and mercy ministry partnerships. Take a moment now to peruse the list below. Then, later today, go on our website and click on “Missions” tab to see pictures of everyone and learn more information about our supported missions.

 

Church Planting Support

·       Spring Hill Presbyterian Church, Rev. Mike Fennema (Spring Hill, TN)

·       Crossroads of the Nations, Rev. Tim Tan (Brentwood, TN)

·       Grace Clovis Presbyterian Church, Rev. Brad Mills (Fresno, CA)

·       Parish Church, Rev. Josh Kines (Lafayette, LA)

·       Christ Community Church, Rev. Hunter Bailey (Fayetteville, AR)

·       Redeemer Church, Rev. Paul Boyd (Murfreesboro, TN)

 

Campus Ministry Support

·       Vanderbilt RUF, Rev. Richie Sessions (Nashville, TN)

·       Belmont University RUF, Rev. Kevin Twit (Nashville, TN)

·       Tennessee Tech RUF, Rev. Gavin Breeden (Cookeville, TN)

·       Western Kentucky RUF, Rev. Ross Lockwood (Bowling Green, KY)

·       University of Tennessee RUFi, Rev. Lee Leadbetter

·       Middle Tennessee State University RUF, Mr. Matthew Alexander (Murfreesboro, TN)

 

Long Term Mission Support (Regional & Foreign)

·       Pilgrim Road Ministries, Dan & Julie Meyers (Pensacola, FL)

·       Servant Group International, Dave & Robin Dillard (Nashville, TN)

·       Servant Group International, Colleen McGarry (Nashville, TN)

·       Preemptive Love Coalition, Molly Goen (Iraq)

·       Nation to Nation, Bill Iverson (India & Sri Lanka)

 

Educational and Mercy Ministry Supports

·       New College Franklin (Franklin, TN)

·       Harvest Prison Ministry, Rick Allen & Richard Jennings (Nashville, TN)

·       Graceworks (Franklin, TN)

·       Franklin Community House (Franklin, TN)

·       NHC Nursing Home (Franklin, TN)

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, January 28, 2018

Our youngest son, Luke, recently saw Christy and me crunching numbers and making adjustments to our family budget. The sight of us with dollar bills in hand and numbers on pages must have provoked a memory. For with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, he told me he put 50 cents in the offering box this last Sunday.

A little context—we’ve recently been teaching our children about the priority of giving to the Lord before anything else. So, this smiley faced little boy knew I’d be pleased, and his announcement was certainly intended to gain His Father’s approval. And that it did. But what really touched me was how happy he was about giving. In fact, it was convicting to see him so happy. There we were in the midst of the joy-killing tedium of budget planning! Our focus certainly wasn’t on giving but on surviving. And yet our full-of-joy little boy was sent by God on a divine errand to remind us of what’s most important about money, even more, about life itself.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, made an observation that has stuck with me. After years of being on the mission field, Taylor wrote, “The less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.” We don’t naturally think this way, do we? When I examine the default settings of my heart, I far too often think that happiness will come as a result of getting what I want. But when I pause and consider the times when I’ve experienced the deepest and most satisfying forms of happiness, it comes on the heels of great sacrifice.

This makes perfect sense in the gospel. We follow a Savior who went to the cross out of love for you and me. What we sometimes forget is that His sacrifice was motivated by joy. The writer of Hebrews says, …let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Jesus saw the joy coming. Through the pain, He saw the resurrection and exaltation. Through the suffering, He saw the redemption of His people. He sacrificed in the present for the joy that would most assuredly come later.

When we give financially to the church, when we volunteer to teach Sunday School, when we bear a casserole for someone in need, help someone move, or sit at the bedside of a shut-in, it often feels like a cross. But if you can see by faith that the joy of the Lord is set before you in the midst of the work, then you can endure it. You might even find that the cross isn’t as bad as you thought. For in the midst of the work, Jesus faithfully meets us and lightens our load. He gives us His yoke and teaches us His gentle and humble way. In Him, we truly find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29).

Have you had a tough week? You’re not alone. All the people around you are bearing heavy loads, too. That’s why we’re all here. Don’t keep trying to be strong. Today is the Sabbath. Just lay your cares at the feet of Jesus right now, and let His grace restore you and give to you the rest you so desperately need.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, January 21, 2018

As we close out 2017 and begin 2018, it’s appropriate that we take a moment to give a quick financial update. In case you’re new with us, our church budget year runs from July 1 to June 30, so we’ve just closed out the second quarter of the budget year.

Below you will find a breakdown of where things stand financially at present. Praise be to God, it is another encouraging report! Thankfully, many of you have faithfully and generously given to the work of ministry at Cornerstone this past quarter, and so we’re moving into 2018 slightly ahead of budget. Through you, God is providing what we need as a congregation, and we are so very grateful.

Please take time to review the financial summary below. If you have any particular questions about our finances, feel free to e-mail our Office Administrator, Susan Bumpus, at office@cstonepres.org.

 

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