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Pastor's Corner

Christmas

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dear Friend,

Last night we had a wonderful Christmas Eve service. As the world was busy with last minute shopping and general busyness, we gathered to reflect on the birth of a humble child who was and is the Savior. We sang traditional Christmas songs accompanied by the beautiful reflective tones of Albie’s cello. The children listened to a homily about the first Christmas presents, the gifts the magi gave to the child. They held a small piece of pure gold and smelled the fragrance of frankincense and myrrh.

I’m not sure when the focus of Christmas changed from what we give to Christ to what others give to us. But, as I thought about Cornerstone, I realized that what makes our church such a blessing is what so many give to Christ’s church. In serving one another, we serve Christ’s body and thus give gifts to Him. In this way, the lesson the magi taught us of giving gifts to Christ continues to this day.

May the blessing of Christ and His church be your this Christmas Day.

What's Happening at Cornerstone

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dear friends,

If you are like most Christians, you believe the Bible is the word of God, have experienced its power in your life, and wish you were more consistent in reading it. I remember the first summer I was a Christian. I decided to read through the entire Bible. I never made it. I think there were several reasons why, but I know what a big one was, I was trying to do it alone.

Starting this month, we are encouraging everyone who attends Cornerstone to join a Community Bible Experience small group. This group will help you read the whole New Testament in just 40 days --five days a week, about twelve pages a day, for eight weeks. You will get a copy of the New Testament that is unlike any you've ever had before. It will make reading the New Testament more like reading a book. Also, you'll have the encouragement of a small group. The group is not designed to be a Bible study. Rather it will be more like a book style discussion group to reflect upon the scripture together.

As they say in the TV infomercials, “But wait! There's more!" As an alternative to reading a printed copy of the Bible, you can do your daily reading by downloading a digital version for your tablet or phone, or you can listen to an audio version. There are also daily videos to prepare you for each day’s reading. For families, there is a kid’s audio adaptation. In other words, no matter what your style – reading a traditional book, reading on a screen, or listening to an audio version, you can do this. In eight weeks, you will read the entire New Testament.

There will be sign-up sheets in the refreshment area. Groups will be organized on several weekday evenings and during the adult Sunday school time. Your group leader will contact you early next week about the details. The adult Sunday groups will begin on Sunday, September 27. All of the youth will be in a group that meets on Sunday. If you have any questions, please contact me or one of the elders.

Before winter snows us in, we’ll be having a lot of fun at Cornerstone. On our church webpage or Facebook page, you can get the details for:

  • Membership classes starting this Sunday (You are not committed to join the church by attending.)
  • Our annual apple-picking event at the Yeh farm in southwest Michigan on Saturday, October 3. If you have never come to this, it is something that families and people of all ages thoroughly enjoy. Plan on inviting someone, as they'll have a great time. Plus, you get to go home with all the free apples you want!
  • An opportunity to serve the Daystar School by helping them move into the newly built-out part of the building on Saturday, October 10. The Men's Ministry Second Saturday Fellowship will coordinate this, but it is open to everyone.
  • Sunday, October 11 is the annual Chicago Marathon. There is no need to miss church as there are a number of routes to get to Cornerstone without any delays. Details will be in the bulletin the Sunday before and posted on our website.
  • On Saturday, October 17 the Men's Ministry and Youth Ministry will join together for Whirly Ball.
  • On Sunday, October 18, the Women's Ministry will have a Lunch Out after services.
  • On Sunday, October 25 we will welcome new members and have our annual Congregational Business Meeting. At this meeting we have elections and approve the annual budget.
  • On Saturday, November 7 the Women's Ministry will hold their annual Craft Day event.

This Sunday we will gather to worship God. Of all the things we do each week, worship has the greatest eternal consequences. But, it also has great immediate consequences, because when we start the week with worship of God, everything else is transformed. Join us as we not sing God's praises, confess our sins and find His forgiveness, hear His word for us, and enjoy fellowship with others who love him.

In Christ,
Pastor Green

Is the God of the Old Testament an Evil God?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Some people think that the God described in the Old Testament is a God of wrath, vengeance, and retribution. In other words, an evil God.

This Sunday we will be looking at Hosea 10 and 11 in our worship. There you will read statements such as: “I will send fire upon their cities that will consume their fortresses.” “Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one.” And, “Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.” Those are harsh statements. But, to conclude that the God who spoke them is evil requires knowing why the statements were made.

If someone with the authority and ability to do so said, “I will destroy every Ebola life form” and “if it creates offspring, I will kill them too,” we would not say that he or she was evil. Indeed, the world would heap acclaim on this person and call their actions a great triumph for the good of mankind. So, it seems, that without understanding the context of a statement, we cannot judge if it is or is not evil.

This Sunday we will look at Hosea 10 and 11. There we will learn why God says such strong and harsh statements to Israel and what his intention or motive is for these actions.

Also on Sunday:

  • Daylight savings time begins. Turn your clock backward one hour on Saturday night and get an extra hour of sleep or arrive at church early!
  • We will celebrate communion. Please prepare your hearts for this sacred remembrance. Also, don't forget your gift of food or gently used clothing for the South Loop Food Pantry.
  • Everyone is invited to remain after worship and join us for our bi-monthly church luncheon. A special activity has been planned and a delicious lunch prepared, so plan on staying after worship for lunch. All children’s, youth, and adult Sunday School classes will be cancelled so that we can have an extended time for fellowship.
  • The Children’s Ministry is preparing our children to do a special presentation in song as part of our Advent series. A special rehearsal with the Worship Team will take place after we are finished eating and while the adults are enjoying time with one another.

Join us on Sunday for a special day of worship and fellowship.

Do some people go to hell?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It is not unusual to hear people say that Hitler, wife beaters, predators, and other assorted evil people should go to hell. Even non-Christians often say this. Will this really happen? Will some people have an eternity of perpetual torment?

God says, “Yes.” Some people are “objects of God’s wrath, prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22).

How were they prepared for such a horrible destiny? Did they have a choice? Could they have “opted out” of a destiny of destruction and instead become an “object of God’s mercy” (Romans 9:23)?

These are intellectually fascinating questions to debate in seminary. But they are also emotionally gut wrenching questions when someone we know, perhaps love, seems to fit into the category of an “object prepared for destruction.”

What do we say to such a person? How do we pray for them? Does God offer them any hope?

Hosea has introduced us to these questions. God is just. Justice demands that evil be punished.

Join us this Sunday as we gather to worship the just God Hosea knew and spoke of, a God who judges and punishes the evildoer.

In Christ,
Pastor Green

P.S. Although the Marathon will close some roads, there are several routes that will get you to church, just allow a few extra minutes. Maps of the race route are available on-line.
For those driving from the north on I-90/94, the Kennedy, your usual exit at Roosevelt or at 18th St. will be open.
For those driving from the west on I-290, the Eisenhower, your usual exits will be open.
For those driving on I-55, the Chinatown/Cermak ramp will be open.
For those driving from Chinatown, Bridgeport and neighboring areas, drive to 35th St. and get on the Dan Ryan northbound at 35th by the Sox stadium. Move to the far left lane which will take you to the I-55 Chinatown/Cermak ramp. At the end of the ramp turn right and then immediately left (north) onto Clark, which will take you to 16th St. and the Daystar parking lot.
For those on the near north side and other Chicago neighborhoods, the CTA may be your easiest way to get to church The Red Line stop at Roosevelt is a short walk to the Daystar building. If driving, check the online map of the Chicago Marathon route to be sure your route will be open.

The Demands of Justice and The Call of Love

Saturday, September 13, 2014

There are times when evil is so pervasive and overwhelming that even the most callous and uncaring cry out and demand justice. Think of the chaos and destruction caused by the Russian sponsored war in Ukraine including the shooting down of a civilian airliner; the gruesome deaths resulting from uncounted cases of Ebola in Africa while a few Americans and Europeans get expensive, intensive, and effective treatment; the murder of Christians and other minorities as a despotic fanatical rule is imposed on parts of the Middle East; and the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri. Who cannot say that justice is needed in these and many other parts of our world?

In the end, the call for justice leads to condemnation, and condemnation to punishment. How do we affirm the call for justice while seeking to obey the many commands in the Bible to love our enemy? When faced with pervasive and overwhelming evil demanding justice, can love endure?

The Old Testament prophet Hosea wrestled with these questions. God could not simply ignore the overwhelming evil in his nation. God had to act with justice, leading to condemnation, and punishment. But, Hosea also knew that God had chosen the descendants of Abraham and promised to always bless them. How could God show love to a people whose actions demanded justice? When faced with pervasive and demanding justice, can love endure?

God is fully and completely just and fully and completely loving. We worship a just and loving God! Join us as we worship our God who responds to evil with justice and who loves even the worst of evildoers.

What's So Bad About Sin?

Friday, July 25, 2014

What’s so bad about sin? I sin. You sin. We all sin. Is sin really so bad, or is it merely normal?

When the news reports something bad, be it a shooting, robbery, violation of the public trust, or the like, usually an expert explains how it was caused by how the person was raised or how it is rooted in an economic, racial, sexual, or other problem of society.

Psychological and sociological explanations for why people behave badly may offer helpful insights. But, this form of “diagnosis” and the resulting “treatment strategy” (provide nurturing day care, provide access to health care, provide meaningful and well paying jobs, affirm the person’s worth, require the police to be respectful of minorities, and so forth) never seem to really fix the problem of the evil inclinations that we observe in others and that we experience within ourselves.

If there is one problem that our society does not like to talk about, it is sin. We are constantly told that morality is inconsistent with personal freedom and that sin is an old fashioned idea that is out of touch with a modern understanding of why people behave badly.

A shadow is the absence of light. When we live in the absence of God’s grace, we live in the darkness or shadow of sin. For thousands of years believers have struggled with living in the darkness of their own soul and the darkness of the culture they are part of. Their spiritual leaders guided them to reject vices and pursue virtues. A vice is a character trait that reflects the long-term absence of God’s grace in our life. A virtue is a character trait that reflects the long-term presence of God’s grace in our life. As a shadow fades when the light appears, so vices fade when virtues become part of our character.

If you are serious about your spiritual life, if you are serious about raising a son or daughter who is capable of loving God and others, if you are serious about addressing the problems of injustice in society, then the focus of our worship services for the next seven weeks will help you.

Pastor Green

Cornerstone Community Church

What's In A Name?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The government just released the top ten American baby names for 2013 as recorded on Social Security card applications. When comparing the top ten names from 100 years ago, only one boy's name, William, and one girl's name, Elizabeth, are on both lists.

Noah, the current number 1 boy's name, did not crack the top 500 until 1969. Liam, currently number 2, was not even in the top 1000 in 1973 and number 9, Jayden, was not there prior to 1994.

Sophia has been in the top 1000 girl’s names for over a century coming in at number 232 in 1913. Emma, currently number 2, was very popular in 1913, coming in at number 38, although it faded in popularity somewhat during the middle of the century. Other current top 10 girl’s names like Ava and Mia were relatively uncommon until recent years. It seems that in America names come and go like a fashion.

New parents often spend considerable time trying to pick their child's name. There is a lot to consider. Is the name popular? Is it too popular? Does it sound pleasing to the ear? Is it so unusual that the child will be forever explaining how to pronounce or spell their name? Do the initials spell an inappropriate word? What about relatives, friends, or a significant person who would be honored by having the child named after them?

In the Old Testament, a person's name was closely linked to their character. Thus, the meaning of a person’s name was important. For example, in 1 Samuel 25:25, Nabal is said to be like his name which means "fool." The Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser, Jr. has observed that “ideally, the name was either descriptive of the parents' wishes or prophetic of the personality to be manifested by one so named.” He states that names were often "integral parts of one's character and fortune" [s.v. Name, ZPEB, IV:362]. In the book of Genesis a number of the major characters have their name changed after they encounter God. Abram becomes Abraham, his wife Sarai becomes Sarah, and Jacob becomes Israel.

Those who have placed their faith in Christ have gained a new name, reflecting their new family: Christian. This is the name that describes who God sees me as. This is the name that describes my potential to be the person God created me to be. This is the name I will carry for eternity.

What does your name mean? Does it mean something different to you than to others? If you could choose a different name what would you choose?

Pastor Green

Cornerstone Community Church

Popular spirituality and Easter

Friday, April 18, 2014

We live in a largely materialistic and post-Christian culture. Yet, there remains a yearning for something to give life meaning beyond mere existence. There seems to be no shortage of popular books and movies seeking to answer these questions.

Two weeks ago, the popular spiritual movie was Noah. Reviews praise it for artistic effort. The movie is loosely based on the biblical story of Noah combined with socially popular themes unrelated to the biblical message or contradictory to it. In the end, what is presented is something far from the story of God's righteousness totally violated, of evil that corrupts everything it touches, and of justice that deals with evil.

This weekend the hot spiritual movie is Heaven Is For Real. It is less about what God has said than about what we want to hear concerning life after death. If you want to know what heaven and eternal life are actually about, read John 17:3.

And we haven't even gotten to all the books, magazine articles, and TV programs which try to answer the fundamental questions of life!

One of the greatest ironies of contemporary culture is that it seeks the answer to the eternal questions of life’s meaning and purpose with a firm unwillingness to consider the answer that has satisfied the heart, mind, and soul of people from every walk of life and every culture for thousands of years.

Good Friday and Easter are the greatest days in the Christian calendar. They answer these ultimate questions of life and death.

Join us on Good Friday evening as we reflect on the death of Christ and celebrate communion. Our service begins promptly at 7:00 and will end at 7:59. On Easter Sunday morning, our worship of the risen Christ begins at 9:30. During the Sunday school hour the children will have an Easter egg hunt tied into their lesson. After service, there will be an extended time of refreshment.

Justice and St. Patrick

Saturday, March 15, 2014

If you have lived in Chicago for more than one year you know that today is the day that the Plumber’s Union dyes the Chicago River bright green. They do it as part of their celebration of St. Patrick's Day. It is true that Ireland is a very green land due to the frequent rains. But is that what Patrick's life was about?

Patrick was not born Irish. He actually came to Ireland twice. The first time he came as a young boy captured by slave traders. After escaping his enslavement, he was called by God to go back to Ireland to proclaim the gospel. Although not the first missionary to Ireland, he was by any measure the most effective and the most famous.

In our society it is common to respond to evil, injustice, inhumanity, and other wrongs with a loud and sustained cry for justice. God is a holy God. When evil comes into his presence, His holiness is stirred into action. This judgment of evil is what we call the wrath of God. The cry for justice is a cry for evildoers to get what they deserve.

Patrick’s enslavement gave him a solid basis to cry out to God for justice. But he didn't. His message was not one of justice and the wrath of God.

Christians should always be quick to forgive. Forgiveness is the removal of the condemnation that is due to us. This is the message of mercy. Mercy is when we do not get what we deserve. Forgiveness is an act of mercy. It is very noble and commendable when a person who is been violated in some way by evil chooses not to cry out for justice but instead grants mercy.

The thrust of Patrick’s message to the Irish went beyond justice and mercy. It was the good news of grace. Justice brings us what we deserve. Mercy does not give us what we deserve. Grace is greater than both of these because grace grants us what we do not deserve.

Grace fulfills the demands of justice. Jesus Christ acted as a substitute who became the object of God’s wrath in our place. Grace fulfills the hope of mercy. It grants us the gift of forgiveness. But grace then grants us what we do not deserve: reconciliation with our Creator, freedom from the penalty and power of evil, and wholeness and peace.

I don’t how you dye a river the color of grace. But, that is the message of Saint Patrick. The message of grace so transformed Patrick that rather than calling for justice or even mercy, he became a man with a mission, a missionary. His mission was to tell the Irish the message of grace.

This Sunday we will be continuing our series on Joseph. Eventually Joseph also became a missionary, aware of the demands of justice, experienced in the transforming power of mercy, and above all a messenger of grace. But, it took time for this transformation take place. This week we will see how he dealt with temptation.

Join us tomorrow as we worship the God of grace.

Will Winter Ever End?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"This winter will never end!" Nearly every Chicagoan has said this. But longer days and the warm sun hint at change to come. It's hard to believe that instead of seeing a four-foot high pile of rock hard snow in front of my house, I will see green grass and flowers. Things change.

Perhaps I should say, some things change and some things don’t.

Some things change because it is their nature. Flowers grow, bloom, and fade. Some things don’t change because it's their nature. Rocks don't change.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to change in the entire world is a person. Not their body, it has to change. But who we are as a person is sometimes, tragically, unchanging.

Is there any hope for someone who is, to be polite, not pleasant? And, who seems quite happy to remain so?

This Sunday we will meet such a person. We will also meet a person who dramatically changed. These two stories will give you hope.

ONE MORE THING ABOUT CHANGE
This Sunday is change-your-clock Sunday. "Spring ahead" means that you need to turn your clock ahead one-hour Saturday night or you will be an hour late to church.
Also, this Sunday we will be starting a new adult Sunday school class on marriage. You won't want to miss it.

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Cornerstone Community Church • 1930 S. Archer Ave • Chicago, IL 60616
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