Category: News

A Christmas Reflection and Call to Action – 2020

As Christmas Day 2020 nears, and the year 2020 moves to its close, I write this reflection and call to action…

An unplanned pregnancy, trip, birth, and departure. Those are just 4 pieces that cloud the birth of Jesus Christ in chaos. Mary didn’t expect to get pregnant. A Roman census forced late pregnancy travel to Bethlehem. The birth arrived in an inconvenient location. Soon after the birth, a crazed, King Herod hunted the newborn babe. Only an angelic warning and a forced migration to Egypt rescued the young family. Unplanned. Chaos. Merry Christmas Joseph. Merry Christmas Mary.

This past year has been a series of unplanned and unprecedented events. Chaos that required quick decisions, regular change, and intense pressure on persons, homes, schools, churches, and governments. Throw in a political quagmire, racial tension, and a lurking virus, and it’s no wonder that most people I know have serious soul whiplash. 

The God-trusting Christian knows full well that there was nothing “unplanned” about Jesus’ birth, and my guess is, most in our church family have little doubt that God is sovereign over derechos, Trumpism, secularism, and the like. 

But I want to go one step further; could we as Jesus-loving, hell-believing, gospel-hoping Christians realize that any and all chaos is when it’s ripe to trust in God? Just think of what happened on the back end of growing perseuction and the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Read Acts 11:19-21: “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

The first major movement of Gentile evangelism and Gentile church-planting came out of the seeming chaos of persecution and death. And who did this work? Look again at the text. No names are listed. A bunch of unnamed saints spread the word of Jesus Christ. They were on mission with God. They did not yield to the chaos. 

That’s my prayer as we transition from 2020 to 2021. That we don’t let “chaos” knock us off mission. I’m personally guilty this year of wanting to have things a certain way to be most beneficial to myself or my family, whether it’s how school should be or church or my Menards shopping experience. I need help to remain committed to Jesus Christ, my local covenant-community, and being on mission to make disciples.

So, who is with me?  I believe the best days of Cornerstone Church and our mission locally and globally are ahead of us, but it will be for those ready to shoulder the load together, ready to put personal preferences aside for the sake of the gospel. Who will come with me? Who will remember our fight is not against flesh and blood, but the rulers and principalities of darkness in this world? Who will embrace our given identity as ambassadors of the gospel?

Shakespeare captured well the heart of what I’m seeking, when he put these famous words on the lips of Henry V: 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother [and sister :)]

Amen. I love you Cornerstone Church.

Ways to Engage this Week:

Remember to tune in tomorrow at 12PM for a mid-week pastoral encouragement via Zoom:

An in-person Christmas Eve Service will start at 6:30PM Thursday (streamed also via FB Live.)

Our prerecorded Christmas Eve Meditation is already posted to be shared with any family and friends:

At Home Christmas Special

Please gather your family and friends around to watch this prerecorded Christmas meditation…

12/15/20 Covid/Mask Update

Dear Church Family,

As the covid-19 boxing match enters its 9th round, we’re all feeling battered by its many blows. I’ve seen this divide our church in ways I never thought possible; my heart aches. My prayer for us as we move forward is to live out the truths in Romans 14-15 that discuss “disputable matters.” (A “disputable matter” is a moral or wisdom position that the Bible does not specifically address.)

Romans 14 and 15 teach us that wherever we land on “disputable matters” we’re to remember “we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8) and we must “make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). So too, we should prioritize pleasing our neighbors over ourselves (Romans 15:2-3). This means that regardless of where your conscience falls on whether masks are helpful and loving or unhelpful and unloving, this must not become an issue that divides the Christian body. Satan is all-too-happy to see us forsake Christ’s mission and the assembly of believers over this disputable matter. 

Amid this journey, the elders have sought counsel in and outside our body to make our decisions without claiming any position has the “right” or “biblical” view on this disputable matter. 

All that to say, we think it’s an ok time to slightly change our covid protocols this week…

With a continued drop in positive cases for covid-19, fewer hospitalizations, and the 14-day positivity rate across Linn county at 9.7% and trending down (well below the 15% 14-day rolling average deemed significant), effective Wednesday December 16th we’ll step back our church-wide protocols to as follows:

1) The overflow area in the foyer will be reserved as a “mask only worship space” for the 9:25AM worship service. The Facebook Live service will continue for those with health concerns related to corporate gatherings.

2) The sanctuary will go back to being mask-optional/encouraged. If possible, please wear a mask entering and exiting the foyer, particularly in the overflow area. *People with breathing problems, non-school age kids, and those who can’t remove the mask without assistance need not wear one.* 

3) Small groups using the building throughout the week can make their own mask-wearing determinations based on group dynamics and concerns. As of last week, the youth group has transitioned to mask-optional/encouraged on Wednesday evenings.

Please do not forget to consider the Marion Mayor’s proclamation and the governor’s disaster proclamations as you seek to honor your governing authorities (see Rom 13:1-7).

I still love pastoring this church, and I love you. Admittedly, I’m a weary pastor at the end of 2020. Pray for me, pray for your elders, pray for one another. Thank you for your many efforts to carry one another burdens…
To God be the glory.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Matt

Christmas 2020 Events

Don’t let these next six words come off trite. God loves you. I love you. We have an amazing God, and I am so thankful to be a part of this church family.

Now onto Christmas…Though the Christmas season may look a bit different in 2020, our great teams and volunteers are working hard to make each week special. Let me highlight 5 ways you, your family, and hopefully some of your friends can join us to reflect on Jesus Christ this season!

#1: Mid-Week Pastor Encouragement Devos – Every Wednesday @12PM  Jump on a short 15-25 minute Zoom call each Wednesday (FIRST ONE TOMORROW!) to hear Pastor Gary or me speak a word of encouragement from God’s Word. Join Zoom Meeting: (Go and download Zoom to your device if you don’t already have it; you can attempt to call in, but sometimes sound issues develop: (312) 626-6799 – Meeting ID: 825 4310 8027 – Passcode: 617256

#2: Join us for our Sunday morning Advent worship services.

#3: A Christmas Carol Singing Night: For those up for a night of singing traditional Christmas carols, we will meet Sunday night December 20th from 4:30-5:30PM. Invite those who love the hymns of Christmas 

#4: A Family Christmas Video: Our amazing worship planning team is putting together a simple 15-25 minute Christmas video that you can use with your immediate and extended family whenever your family meets to open presents, eat, and celebrate Christmas. The video will retell the story of Christmas and be a helpful resource for Christians and those not yet in the Christian faith. You may choose to pass it along to the friends and family you won’t be able to see this year. Look for this around December 22/23.

#5: Christmas Eve Service: We’re planning a “traditional” Christmas Eve service on December 24th at 6:30PM at the church building; we’ll also stream it live via our Facebook page and have overflow seating in the foyer.
I love you. God loves you.

Immanuel has come! Glory!

Pastor Post: November 24, 2020

Dear Church Family,

In the bleak midwinter of sin, doubt, and shame, 

Our Father sent His Son, to bring glory to His name.

A holy life lived as the sacrificial lamb,

Our propitiation before the great I AM.

Savior, He is, Savior, He was, Savior He will be,

A gracious gift of love for you and me. 

We’ll have two gatherings this week…
   #1: Join us at 10AM on Thanksgiving for a “Good Morning Church” Zoom Call:
   #2: We’ll meet Sunday at 9:25AM for our Church Gathering in-person, online, and in our overflow room (no change to our Covid-19 protocols).

I also dropped a new YouTube encouragement video: 

I’m thankful for you!

-Pastor Matt