How Do We Prepare for What’s Next?

Stress will inevitably come when you marry, raise your first child, begin a new job, move to a new town, launch a new business, start a new semester, live single after divorce, or move through any significant life change. James, Jesus’ brother, provides these words to help prepare for future change, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV). James puts a major emphasis on the need to “do” what God says not simply listen. You see the patterns we live by in the present become the most significant thing we do to prepare for a future change.  

For example, the people living in debt that think to themselves “someday I will tithe when I am better off financially” depend upon the future to change the present. But it’s the present that impacts the future. Future financial freedom depends upon tithing our first 10%, saving the next 10% and then living on 80% of all our income. Another way of saying this, first give, then save, then live. It’s not enough know what God’s word says about money you must actually do what it says today to change tomorrow’s outcome. The seasons of our life are progressively connected, not isolated from one another.

Another example is found in epigenetics, the study of a human’s biological mechanisms that switch genes off or on based upon that person’s environment and choices. Studies in this field reveal how a parent’s lifestyle will effect the DNA construction in their future children. How a future parent lives today becomes the most significant thing they can do to prepare for a future child.

Our greatest regrets in life tie directly back to hearing godly wisdom and not doing it. Seek then to be a doer of God’s Word, for it is the best preparation for what’s next in our lives. You see it’s not just the hearing of God’s word that makes us prepared for what future holds; it’s the doing of the word. So do what our Father in Heaven says and leave the consequences of those decisions to Him.

Grace & Peace, Bob Paddock

Are All Loves Created Equal?

Walking in India with a Hindu guru, the Christian author Robert Johnson stopped to give money to a beggar. The guru rebuked him for tampering with the beggar’s karma. Johnson explained that his motivation was out of obedience to the God of the Bible. With that the guru changed his mind; if the motive was purely selfish, then giving to the poor might be okay. This reasoning seems upside down to those brought up in a Christian culture, but it makes perfect sense to a Hindu raised in India.
People who have an uneducated view of religion will often say “All religions teach love and are just different paths to the same god.” This myth continues to grow with popularity in academia, government and the media, but the myth is easily exposed when different beliefs systems are compared to each other. For example, anyone researching Eastern religions would be hard pressed to find a mythical teaching on love; or find a similar pathway to the God, like Jesus described in Luke 9:23-26.
Jesus taught that both the physical and spiritual realms were created good and love springs up from the spiritual life and manifests into tangible actions in the physical world. “LOVE is the one great truth unique to Christianity. Mohammed taught judgment, not love. Buddha taught escape, not love. Confucius taught conformity, not love. Jesus taught LOVE.”- McMillen & Stearn, None of these Diseases.
The religion of humanism, which only recognizes the physical world as real, defines love as a chemical reaction in the brain to force the animal (meaning the human) to procreate. Sacrificial love has no place in this world-view for it protects the weak and threatens the human gene pool with more defects. For example, Iceland’s government screens pregnant women’s children for Down syndrome, and then encourages abortion to eliminate that population from their nation. A humanistic love is self serving.
The God of the Bible put on flesh, and lived among people, this God-Man was Jesus. He taught us that the Father wanted to restore the broken relationship with his creation through sacrificial love. Jesus also explained how we are to love others and love ourselves. True love is best defined in the examination of the life and words of Jesus, and all other definitions of love fall short of what each of us most deeply desire to experience.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not
perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)
Grace & Peace, Bob

Upcoming Events

Camp Pitt Harvest Day

November 5 at Camp Pitt. Meal starts at 5PM, program starts at 6. The Churchmen will be the special musical guest. Our offering goal is $20,000 to go toward Camp Pitt projects and programs.

Donate your gently worn, used, and new shoes to Climbing Higher Ministries!

Put your donations in the box in the foyer by Nov. 8.

Family Dedication Sunday

November 19. Please see Michelle Stallard or sign up at the Connect Desk for a Family Dedication Class.

Thanksgiving Fellowship Meal

Sunday, November 19 after the second service. Please bring a side dish to share.


Priestly Assignment

“The image [of God] is a vocation, a calling. It is the call to be an angled mirror, reflecting God’s wise order into the world and reflecting the praises of all creation back to the Creator. That is what it means to be the royal priesthood: looking after God’s world is the royal bit, summing up creation’s praise is the priestly bit,” says N.T. Wright.

The rest of creation may do very well at praising God, but it doesn’t seem to understand that it does so. As far as we know, humans alone have been given the ability to see the relationship between the creation and its Creator. Thus, part of our job is to collect and direct, or “sum up,” creation’s praise to God. Made able to recognize the goodness of what he has made and praise him for it, we act as the contact point between God and his world.

In his book The Lost World of Adam and Eve, from which the above N.T. Wright quote comes, John Walton examines how Genesis 2–3 points to a priestly role for humanity. (Thanks to Larry for loaning it to me!) The Garden of Eden is connected with the later Israelite tabernacle/temple, as well as other ancient temple stories of the region, by its description as a place of bounty and beauty where God makes himself specially present in a way that people can meet him. While a pagan temple would be complete neither without an idol to represent the god nor without a priest to serve the god, Eden is completed with Adam and Eve. They were to both serve God and represent him!

This idea of royal priests echoes through the Bible, as God continues working to establish the order that he desires in his creation. After Adam and Eve, he chose Israel (Exodus 19:6), then the Church (1 Peter 2:9). In Revelation, from 1:6 to 22:5, John repeatedly speaks of those whom Jesus has redeemed as a kingdom of priests who will reign on the earth. All along God has sought to have people, who bear his image, to actually function as his intermediaries for the world.

How are we fulfilling this call to represent God in the world and direct its praise back to him? I admit that I haven’t thought much about this divine purpose in my own life. But I fear we are always mirroring in some way, whether we think about it or not: we are reflecting something to the world and something back from the world. By God’s grace, may we pour out praise to its rightful recipient and brightly reflect his image in the world.

— David Mitchell, Worship Arts Director

The Rooster’s Crow


God has been working in my life this week about how to handle the times when I lose sight of Him.  I am reminded of the story of Peter’s denial of Christ not just once but three times…before the rooster crowed.  Luke 22:31-34,54-62  Whenever I look at that story my first reaction mirrors Peter’s reaction at the last supper, well I wouldn’t deny my Savior, but in the midst of the storm the confusion and fear creeps in.  How can I handle this mess?  What am I going to do about this?  My eyes are on the storm.

One attribute that I have always respected about Peter was his ability and courage to own his emotions and put them out there for all to see.  I may feel some of these same emotions, but I do not always put them out there for my Savior, let alone the world, to see.   Jesus was able to shape and mold Peter’s heart so drastically because he was willing to show the Savior what his heart was feeling.  Christ is a master at healing broken hearts and lives, but what can He do with a life that we have pretended is fine, or a life that we continually try to fix on our own?  Jesus knew Peter would fail, just as He knows we will fail.  Instead of rubbing our noes in our failure, He has lovingly taken our penalty for the failure and waits with outstretched arms praying that we will see our need for Him.  

When you are going through trial and temptation, be real with God about where you are and your need for a cure…the cure – Jesus.  Only then, after that rooster has crowed in your own life, and you feel the shame of defeat, can you say forgive me, help me.  I can’t imagine what was going through Peter’s mind when He saw His Savior on the beach after the Resurrection, but with unguarded, abandoned love he jumped in the water headed for Jesus.  Peter’s love for His Savior overcame his fears!  

That love is what we talk about each week in Kingdom Kids.  Love and relationship to our Savior motivates change in our life, but He asks for all of our heart not just a quarter or half.  During our heart hunt on Resurrection Sunday, we learned the verse, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer.29:13  Peter devoted all of himself to His Savior.  Have you given all of yourself to Jesus?  Your day to day worries…your control…your health, children, spouse…Your Life.   Give it all to Jesus.   He has the power to save us from ourselves and the worries and sin of this world.

Love and Blessings,

Michelle Stallard

Lead With Grace

Not so long ago, an atheist friend shared with me a painful story of abuse that took place in the church, then went on to explain how people who don’t go to church see Christians as hypocritical and judgmental. I received further evidence on this sad fact in Phillip Yancey most recent book VANISHING GRACE, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE GOOD NEWS?.

This book begins with some very sobering facts, like only 3 percent of “young outsiders” have a favorable view of evangelicals. Some “outsiders” remain suspicious and others hostile of Christians and the church. I certainly understand why my atheist friend has an axe to grind against Christians, but how can so many people be antagonistic towards the Church that does so much good in the world? What has gone wrong? Why do so many people see Christians as the bearers of bad news and not the Good News? Outsiders know more of what we’re against than what we are for.

We, the church, must carefully consider how we respond to questions about homosexuality, same sex marriage, abortion, immigration, etc. . . . Here’s the first step, always lead with grace before sharing the truth. “For God so loved the world” comes before “repent and be baptized”. Coffee with a friend comes before communion on a Sunday, offering a helping hand comes before opening the Bible, you get the idea. The indispensable starting point for sharing the truth is love.

Grace & Peace, Bob Paddock

Language for Life

Note: These are my remarks from our vision service on January 4th, just slightly adapted. — David

I want you to consider the importance of what we sing together (as you might expect, given my role here). Now, that’s certainly not the only important thing we do when we gather, but these songs do give us the words that we use to address God and tell each other about him.

Let me illustrate that: You may remember a song we started singing in November of 2015. It had just started getting radio airplay, after Chris Tomlin released his version of it. It’s called “Good, Good Father.” Now, I want you to think about how often you’ve heard God addressed as a “good Father” in prayer since then. Hasn’t that song affected how we talk to God? I think that’s a good thing, because it’s true — he’s a good Father.

We don’t often recite creeds here at Cornerstone, but our songs work much the same way. These words deeply affect our picture of God and ourselves, and come out — sometimes directly — in the way we talk to him and each other. As I shared last year, I’ve experienced times of both gratitude and grief when the words that came to my mind and mouth were song lyrics.

So as we continue to pursue discipleship this year, my understanding of how the music team fits into that has not changed much. The songs may be new or old, popular or obscure, but above all, I pray, they will be true. Keep singing with us, or maybe start singing with us, and let me know how it affects you. And consider the value of what we’re singing. Do you believe it, or not? Does it match up with scripture, or not? Does it affect how you live, or not?

Of course, we don’t listen to music or even sing only at, and with, the church. I’m not here to pick on your choice of radio stations, Spotify playlists, or CDs, but I do want to remind you — and myself — that what we listen to and sing has a tendency to get into our minds and hearts and affect what we want. If we’re seeking to be Jesus’ disciples, then God’s kingdom and God’s will should be at the top of the list of what we want. And so we might have to modify what we listen to, or watch, or read, in order for that to happen.

I will leave you to decide where you need to apply this in your life, but let me close with the apostle Paul’s words from his letter to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Why Celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

Say you went to a family reunion where, during the meal, no one talked to or even looked at each other. Instead, everyone just stared down at their plates. What would you think? Would you assume that all is well within the family, or that something is wrong?

The Discipline of Celebration

We are looking back to Jesus’ death in the Lord’s Supper, which encourages a certain solemnity. However, if not for Jesus’ resurrection, there would be little reason to remember his death. It would have been simply the loss of another man, albeit one who had said and done some amazing things. But the resurrection proves his identity as the Messiah (or Christ), the promised King of God’s people. Not only that, we learn that his death brings not further condemnation, but rather freedom from our own sins!

We continue to remember his death now because it means our life. We’ve been brought back into God’s family within Christ’s body — clothed in him and made a part of him. We are made one with Jesus along with the other members of his body. The one meal reminds us of our common hope, identity, and purpose.

Thanksgiving at the Lord’s Table

As we see when the apostle Paul wrote to Corinth about the problems in their meetings, the Supper was a true meal for the early church. He said that they were not really eating the Lord’s Supper at all, however, because one might start into it early and feast to the point of drunkenness, while another who arrived later left hungry! He criticized them not for their lack of solemnity (of course, he addresses gluttony and drunkenness in other places), but for their selfish lack of care for one another. They were completely missing the point of the Supper by not recognizing the value of every member in the “body of Christ” — the people that Jesus died to redeem and unite.

So we certainly can go wrong, but not, I believe, by approaching the Lord’s Supper in an attitude of joy. How can we not be joyful if we recognize how much God has done for us through Jesus? Rather, if we fail to concern ourselves with our brothers and sisters’ needs, we have failed to discern the body of Christ around us. Yet we are saved only by being in him, in his church. If we refuse to recognize, participate in, and care for his body, the Church, we cut ourselves off from that one means of salvation.

Sipping the Coming Joy

When we come to the table, let’s come in celebration, looking back to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and looking forward to his coming again. Let’s look around at his body and remember that we are not alone. This is a family reunion — a small one, anticipating a much larger one. God’s family will one day no longer be separated by divisions or death. Let’s celebrate the Supper like we appreciate what Jesus has done for us: God and sinner reconciled!

— David Mitchell, Worship Arts Director

A previous version of this article was published in the November 2016 newsletter. For more on this topic, listen to or watch Larry Hunt’s sermon “For the Life of the World: Wonder” (October 30, 2016) and Bob Paddock’s sermon “You Asked for It: Why Water into Wine?” (August 6, 2017).

The Pleasure of Praise

Good things naturally receive our praise: “What a beautiful day!” “That was an amazing three-pointer.” “I love that song.” “Did you see that movie?” But we struggle to extend our praise to the source of all good things, God. We may even wonder why the Psalms are full of commands to sing in praise to him — shouldn’t we choose when and how to do so? Shouldn’t it be more … authentic?

Say one evening I go up to J.T.’s at the Lavalette. I walk in and am seated, place my order, eat a prime rib steak and a salad and a sweet potato, pay, and drive home — but choose to never comment on my meal, or to take an extra moment to savor what I’m eating, or even to smile in pleasure. Afterwards, I never talk about it or even reflect on it again. Wouldn’t I have been about as well off if I had gotten fast food or heated up a microwave dinner that night? Obviously, J.T.’s food won’t objectively be any different depending on whether I express appreciation for it or not. However, my level of satisfaction will be different!

I submit that when God’s Word calls us to praise him, it urges us to do what will actually bring us the greatest satisfaction and joy. When we fail to praise him, we don’t diminish him. But we do impoverish our own lives. By singing together, acknowledging God’s power and purity and love, we can begin to take pleasure in knowing our Creator, our Father, our King, our Redeemer — the source of all good things.

David Mitchell

Visualize Jesus’ Ministry

A few months ago, Bob gave us the acronym LOVE to help us live out God’s love every day. I’ve been discussing how we can use this acronym to create regular practices of love as a family. Here is the acronym, in case you’re unfamiliar with it:
Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit
Offer a helping hand
Visualize Jesus’ ministry
We visualize Jesus’ ministry by spending some time reading the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) each week. As we read, we pay attention to the sorts of things Jesus does and the way that he treats people. Then, we think about our own lives and consider how we can apply those behaviors. 
For example, we might notice Jesus frequently going away to be alone with the Father. We might ask why he does that. With reflection or further study, we come to understand that his relationship with his Father is what gave him the power to do all of the great things that he did and to live the life he lived. Therefore he spent considerable time with his Father. From there, we may grasp the importance of our own relationship with the Father and carve out a specific time to be alone with him each day.
Seeing Jesus have a meal with someone no one else wants to be around may lead us to eat with someone who is not very popular in our society. Seeing Jesus correcting religious people who look down people may force us to recognize and confront our own tendency towards religious elitism. Whatever situation we may see Jesus in, if we regularly read the Gospels we will constantly find ourselves challenged to grow and to emulate his example.
Now, pursuing this aspect of LOVE as a family is simple. Once a week, make some time to sit down and read from one of the Gospels as a family. Ask questions about the passage and pursue answers together. Ask, “How would Jesus live if he were in my shoes?” As you visualize Jesus ministry, give your family a challenge about how to live out that passage in the coming week. And the following week, give everyone a chance to share how they enacted Jesus’ ministry. As you pursue Christlikeness as a family, you’re sure to see some transformation.