Pastoral Notes for Sunday, June 17, 2018

In today’s passage, Paul calls us to be constant in prayer. Whenever I read those words from Paul, these words from J.C. Ryle come to mind, “When Paul says, ‘Continue in prayer’ and ‘Pray without ceasing,’ he did not mean that people should be always on their knees, but he did mean that our prayers should be like the continual burned-offering steadily preserved in every day; that it should be like seed-time and harvest, and summer and winter, unceasingly coming round at regular seasons; that it should be like the fire on the altar, not always consuming sacrifices, but never completely going out.”

Ryle is right, of course. But how do we pray in this way?

I’ve always found it interesting how little time John Calvin spends theologizing on the doctrine of prayer in The Institutes of Christian Religion, but how much time he spends on the practice of praying. Calvin understood that prayer is communion with God—an intimate and ongoing conversation built on love. Like all forms of communication, there are certain guiding principles—you might call them rules—that one follows to facilitate and maintain close relationship.

Helpfully, Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, explores Calvin’s writing on prayer in a work entitled, Taking Hold of God. Reflecting on Calvin, Beeke distills four basic rules for conversation with God.

1.     Heartfelt Sense of Reverence – Our prayers should take into account who we are speaking with, namely, God. Being moved by His character and the fact He desires to speak with us; should create within us a sense of awe, a holy reverence. Why? Because the God of the universe is mindful of us, desiring to hear from us.

2.     Heartfelt Sense of Need & Repentance – As soon as we come in contact with the nature of God, we see our want. Calvin says we should have the “disposition of a beggar.” We see His glory, and with yearning that His will is to be done, we pray with the sense that our very life depends on it.

3.     Heartfelt Sense of Humility and Trust in God – Naturally flowing from the two previous points is the realization that we despair of our position and ability and yield ourselves entirely to God. Confidence in self is drained, and transferred wholly to God, knowing that the heavenly Father will give to us all we need (Luke 11:13).

4.     Heartfelt Sense of Confident Hope – Because the Scripture assures us of the Father’s great and unchangeable love for His children, we can pray expectantly. If we are in Christ, we have no reason to fear and every reason to hope. Our inheritance is absolutely sure (I Peter 1:3-4). Our prayers must reflect this surety, issuing forth with an unshakable confidence and joy.

If these four rules were to become the heart habit of your prayer life, what a difference it would make in your relationship with the Lord! Be forewarned though: these rules must not become rote. The key word in every point is “heartfelt.” So, let love for God stir your heart, filling your every prayer with enjoyment of heartfelt communion with the living God.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, June 10, 2018

In Presbyterian Church government, there are historically three ruling bodies or courts. First, there is the Session which is the name given for the ruling body of a local church (i.e. eldership). Second, there is the Presbytery, which is the name for the ruling body of a particular region. The Presbytery is made up of all the teaching elders (pastors) and commissioned ruling elders from each member church in the presbytery (e.g. Nashville Presbytery) Lastly, there is the General Assembly. This is the name for the ruling body of the entire denomination. It’s made up of all commissioned teaching elders and the prescribed number of ruling elders from every church in the denomination.

Once a year in the summer, the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) meets together. Pastors, ruling elders, delegates from fraternal denominations, and guests from around the globe will gather to worship, fellowship, and conduct the business of the church. This year’s annual meeting is June 11-15 in Atlanta, GA. Rev. Tony Giles and I along with two of our ruling elders, Mr. Terry Cheney and Mr. Jim Payne, will be attending as commissioners representing Cornerstone Presbyterian Church.

Before I attended my first GA back in 2005 as a seminary student, I often wondered, “What happens at GA?” Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing. Truth is, there are a lot of things that happen at GA, because the design of GA is to accomplish a number of mission critical purposes for the denomination.

First, GA is where our denominational organizations and agencies like Mission to the World, Mission to North America, Covenant College, Covenant Theological Seminary, Reformed University Fellowship, etc. meet yearly with pastor and elder representatives to submit budgets, make personnel changes, give reports on ministry health, and address any other pertinent matters of business relating to their organization or agency.

Secondly, GA is a time for pastors and elders to receive ongoing education and training for the work of ministry. Every year there are dozens of seminars led by ministers and scholars on a vast array of theological, historical, and practical subjects. This year there will be seminars on church planting, church revitalization, leadership dynamics, worship, preaching, cross-cultural missions, intergenerational relationships, racial reconciliation, social reform, and many, many other subjects.

Third, GA is also a time for the whole denomination to come together for worship and fellowship. Each day’s session of GA is closed with a worship service, and the breakfast, lunch, and dinner slots are filled with both organized and casual opportunities for pastors and elders to spend time together in fellowship.

Fourth and finally, the primary purpose of the General Assembly is to address mission critical denominational matters. This includes, but is not limited to, matters of theological, cultural, ecclesiastical, and administrative importance to the denomination and its presbyteries.

Following the GA, I will use this space to summarize some of the highpoints and key items of business. In the meantime, if you have interest in learning more about this year’s General Assembly, you can visit the General Assembly’s website hosted by the PCA’s Administrative Committee. The web address is

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, June 3, 2018

Kids are out of school. The swimming pools are open. The temperatures are reaching into the 90’s. You know what that means? It’s summer! And if it’s summer, that means we’re halfway through 2018! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas and New Years?” Yes, we did. But somehow six months slipped past us in a blink of an eye.

So, before we rush headlong into summer, let’s take a deep breath. Let’s slow down for a bit and take a moment to evaluate how things are going. What’s the first six months of 2018 been like for you? Name the high points and the low points. Retell the stories. Cry. Laugh. Give thanks. Then, ask yourself, “What midyear course corrections do I need to make?”

In fact, for summer 2018, we’re going to ask that question as a church. We’re going to slow things way down and take a good hard look at our life together as the family of God. Starting today, we’re going to spend the next nine weeks (June and July) in Romans 12:9-21. That’s only thirteen verses for nine weeks! But don’t let the brevity fool you. These thirteen verses are among the richest instruction we find anywhere in the Scripture on what it means to be the family of God.

Life in the Family of God

June 3 – Romans 12:9-10, “Let Love be Genuine”

June 10 – Romans 12:11, “Serve the Lord”

June 17 – Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in Hope”

June 24 – Romans 12:13, “Generous in Hospitality”

July 1 – Romans 12:14, “Love Your Enemies”

July 8 – Romans 12:15, “Show Compassion”

July 15 – Romans 12:16, “Live in Harmony” 

July 22 – Romans 12:17-18, “Be at Peace"

July 29 – Romans 12:19-21, “Overcome Evil with Good”


If you really want to get the most of out of this study, pick up our (free!) summer devotional booklet available at both entrances this morning. There are several features in this booklet that are intended to work the truth of Romans 12:9-21 into your life.

·      Five distinct prayer services for each day of the workweek

·      An evening reflection guide to help you close the day with the Lord

·      Scripture reading plan that parallels the main themes of Sunday’s worship

·      Practical articles on key subjects related to life in the family of God


Whisper a brief prayer right now for our summer together at Cornerstone, asking the Lord to renew our commitment to the Scripture’s vision for life in the family of God.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, May 27, 2018

On Monday evening, June 4th at 7pm, our very own Greg Wilbur will lead a book discussion on The Sorcerer’s Stone—the first book in the wildly popular Harry Potter series. Knowing something of the controversy behind the series, you may be asking yourself, “Why would a church assign a Harry Potter book for a literature discussion?” I posed that question to Greg Wilbur. His answer is below.

Why read Harry Potter? At the heart of that question lies the deeper question of why we should read fiction. Isn’t it better to spend time reading scripture, theology, and non-fiction? Without taking away from those pursuits, there is a place for fiction in the Christin life. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have written far more detailed descriptions of why to read stories than we can cover here, but the crux of their argument is that just because something is fiction doesn’t mean that it is not true. Myths from various cultures and times contain kernels of truth—a fact that caused Lewis to declare that Christianity is the only True Myth. Stories can reveal truth about the world God has made, about sin, rupture, redemption, and resurrection in ways that are both instructive and formative. Perhaps that is why Christ used stories in the form of parables—He spoke far more often in stories than in theological teaching.

So, if stories can convey truth and be instructive, what is the foundational truth on which the Harry Potter series is built. Firstly, it is important to know that the author, J.K. Rowling, studied classics and has an above average knowledge of classical and medieval literary traditions. Secondly, she is a huge admirer of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Thirdly, though she grew up Anglican, she was an active member of the Church of Scotland while writing the series. In speaking about her faith and the books, she said, “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious, but I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”

Without spoiling plot lines, here are some of the ways in which Christianity plays a role in the books:

1.     Medieval symbols of Christianity are used in consistently Christian ways.

2.     The heads of serpents are crushed (Gen 3).

3.     Recognized symbols of Christ such as a unicorn (purity), phoenix (resurrection bird who rises from the ashes), and griffin (half eagle and half lion=lord of the sky and king of the beasts=dual nature of Christ as God and man).

4.     The role of sacrificial love—Harry is literally marked by love that protects him.

5.     Themes of death and resurrection.

6.     Intentional story of sanctification.

7.     The hero, Harry, is not gifted in and of himself and is saved from death again and again by the imposition of a Christ-figure.

In addition, the very structure of a hero story conforms to the pattern of how God made stories to work—certain biblical worldview assumptions have to be in place. For instance, hero stories are dependent on the idea that someone(s) are in danger and need to be saved. There is an inherent value to life and a recognition that death is an aberration of how the world was meant to be—these are both Christian ideas. Harry Potter explores these ideas in biblical ways.

One other objection to the stories is the use of magic. We will talk about that topic more in the discussion, but the short answer is that there are two historically recognized types of magic—invocational (invoking evil spirits) and incantational (“singing” along with nature). The second type is what we see in such Christian stories as The Lord of the Rings, Cinderella, Narnia, Beauty and the Beast, and Harry Potter. This is a significant distinction.

Rowling has written a richly textured sub-created world—a made-up world where sacrifice, sanctification, and redemption consistently point to the truth of scripture.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, May 20, 2018

Though a growing church of nearly 500 members, we have intentionally kept our staff footprint small. Whenever we see a need, we don’t immediately think, “We need to hire someone.” Instead, we look first to God’s people. The Apostle Paul tells us that church leaders – pastors, elders, and staff – must be committed not to shoulder the entire ministry load, but to raise up and equip God’s people for the work of ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

Taking Paul’s instructions seriously, we rely on the commitment and participation of the Cornerstone membership to serve and lead within the body. This is why we come to you each year to fill scores of volunteer ministry positions and, thanks be to God, you’ve never let us down!

Over the last few months, I’ve had elders, deacons, staff, and others relay to me stories of how your ministry is making a difference. Whether rocking children in the nursery, or retelling a Bible story in 4th grade Sunday school, or baking cookies for a youth event – God is using you to make a spiritual impact in our community. 

As our Sunday morning children’s discipleship ministries wrap up the spring term today, I want to take a moment to say “thank you!” to our faithful volunteers. We could not do what we did this spring without you!

As you read through that list, take time to mark the ways these ministries and volunteers have touched you and/or your family. Please make specific note of people who have played a particularly vital role in you or your family’s walk with Christ. If you haven’t done so already, you might consider writing a brief thank you note just to let them know how much their ministry has meant to you.

Led by our Children’s Director, Martha Brooks, our children’s Sunday School teachers and assistants were Amy Pent, Michelle Marshall, Kristin Lee, Joe and Joy Marlo, Mark Elliott, Katie Ewing, Bob Wolk, Anneke Seely, Julia Grounds, Ronda Laventure

Charlotte Robinson, Mary Lynn Giles

Led by our Elder over Youth Ministry, Randy Allen, our volunteers in youth Sunday School were Brian Phillips, Christian Brewer, Lauren Smith, Marty Smith, Will Kesler, Jay Williams, Kent Coughlin, Matt Michaud, Matt Suits, Jim Payne, Barbara Cheney, Nancy Guthrie, and John Millard.

Led by our Nursery Coordinator, Christy Shurden, our nursery volunteers were Scott Chapman, Missy Chapman, Katie Patton, George Reitz, Celeste Nichols, Kevin McClung, Ronda Laventure, Cindi Wolk, Carolyn Vermilye, Bonnie Snyder, Julie Kesler, Colleen McGarry, Debi Haggard, Mark Haggard, Peggy Mueller, Suzann Allen, Becky Payne, Laura Coughlin, Lindsey Elliott, Karen Koellein, Rachael Zecher, Jan Norris, Sharon Haney, Sue Steffens, Bob Wolk, Eleanor Ware, Carl Ware, Lisa Fiedler, Dan Fiedler, Gari Vernier, Kristen Oakerson, Alli Faulk, Mary Lynn Giles, Katie Ewing, Meredith Suits, Julia Morton, and Lucy Lilly.