2020 Lenten Season

“Lent: Soul-Searching”

Luke 9: 23-24
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.


Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday.

In the days when fire was vital for cooking and heat, a major part of housekeeping was keeping ashes under control, during times when serious problems arose that housekeeping chore would often be left undone and so a person who was in mourning or suffering distress would often have ashes on his/her face. Eventually putting on ashes became part of the mourning process. Ash Wednesday is about mourning for the sin which makes the sacrifice necessary.

Lent is a season of soul-searching, a time for reflection and taking stock. In the earliest days of the Church, lent began as a time of preparation for Easter, and by observing lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness.

The last three days before Lent are sometimes called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival. This stems from the tradition of using up the household foods that would be abstained from during lent. (Fatty foods, meat – Carnival is farewell to meat)

How can we use the 40 days of lent to prepare our hearts for Christendom’s most sacred holiday?

What do we do during the 40 days to shake ourselves from business as usual to a more spiritually attuned life?

I. Self-denial.
The Christian faith is supposed to be about imitating Jesus who said some radical things. We tend to want to imitate Jesus in ways that appeal to us; we pick and choose the parts of His life we will emulate based on our own sense of what is really important.

Jesus did fast and pray throughout His ministry. He did deny Himself, He did sacrifice all.
Would we be willing to go beyond the comfortable level of self-sacrifice we normally observe in order to more closely imitate Jesus; in order to prepare our hearts for Easter and the rest of our lives?

II. Self-examination.
In the Lenten season, self-examination is crucial. An individual’s response to the call for purposeful reflection on one’s need for God is an important factor in choosing a discipline with which to actively observe Lent. For some, fasting is a means of self-examination and denial; yet, fasting is not an appropriate discipline for all people. The purpose of a Lenten discipline is to strip away those things which clutter one’s life or impede one from being in relationship with God. It is also a time for people to experience and reflect on the sufferings of Jesus, in light of personal sin and unrighteousness.

Christianity is about more than outward behavior, it is about the condition of the heart. We need to prepare our hearts for Easter and the rest of our lives by setting aside this time for self-examination and then where necessary, repentance and change.

III. Selfless giving.

As Christ fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days, we try to be mindful of Christ for the standards by which we live our lives, with goals of self-giving and suffering love. With such high goals, any programmatic response may seem to fall short, yet an attempt to incorporate prayer, meditation, and useful action in the path of Christ into our lives, is invaluable. Jesus wants us to give ourselves to prayer this Lenten season and throughout our journey with Him.


If people want to temporarily give up certain things for Lent as a sign of love for their Savior, that’s fine. But what Christ is really concerned about is what’s in our hearts. On Ash Wednesday, we begin that long walk to the cross, where we see just how serious and terrible our sins are. But there we also see how wonderful and deep our Savior’s love is for us. The road doesn’t end there, but at the empty tomb, where Jesus rises from the dead to prove that all of our sins have been forgiven. May God bless us as we begin our Lenten Journey. Amen!

Pastor John Punni


Making Disciples

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

                                                                       Matthew 28:19b

Do we know what this is? This is one of the final statements Jesus made to His followers before His ascension back to the Father. We call this statement the Great Commission? But really what it is our calling card – our purpose statement – our elevator pitch!

I believed the church exists to introduce people to Christ, to help them experience an authentic growing relationship with Him so that they might go out in His name and repeat the process (making disciples).

In describing this text, most people would say this teaching is the purpose of the church’s existence. And certainly, I would fall into this camp. I would say that to make a disciple begins with connecting someone to Christ through salvation and then connecting them to His church for ministry care and concern.

Now depending on who you ask, you might find a wide variety of interpretations regarding what it means to “make disciples.” Many churches and pastors today believe this passage to be a command to evangelize the world. Yet while there’s certainly an evangelistic bent to Christ’s command, I believe His instructions go far beyond sharing the gospel. Let us look at this text in three ways: 


Making disciples speaks to the idea of a learning believer – someone who is in the process of fully developing in his/her faith with love for God.

As I have been speaking about discipleship the last weeks, a disciple can be defined this way:

He/She is available to God

He/She has affection for God

He/She submits to the authority of God

He/She lives for the agenda of God

He/She waits on the assurance of God

And part of the essential disciplines to become a disciple are:

The ability to hear and distinguish God’s voice

The ability to handle God’s word

The ability to honor God’s covenant truths

A readiness to herald God’s truth, to help others at the point of their need and to serve them to God

It’s the difference between a one-time profession of faith (Member) and a lifetime of spiritual growth and increasing godliness (Disciple)

It is also the difference between someone who seeks a God relationship and someone who settles for a good religion. We are called to be developed as disciples at Cornerstone.


Before we can answer this question there’s a fundamental truth we all must absorb – disciples are made as one maturing disciple takes spiritual responsibility for another soul to influence them to Christ. Everything else supports the disciple-making process – the pulpit, small groups, etc.

Sadly though, it appears as if we’ve been tempted to do everything except the one thing Jesus called us to do. Did you know that Jesus never told us to…

Start Sunday School and Form classes

Create Programs and Construct Buildings

Build Colleges/Seminaries and Organize Conventions

Hold Conferences and Sponsor Events

All that is wonderful and needed. But the mission of the Christian and God’s Church is to pour the Jesus that has been pour into us into another until they are capable of doing the same for another. 

For Jesus, making disciples meant repeating the process He performed with the 12 and they with others. Meaning – to be a disciple of Jesus is to make a disciple for Jesus.

Dawson Trotman in “Born to Reproduce” asked: “Men, where is your man? Women, where is your woman? Where is the one whom you led to Christ and who is now going on with them? How many persons do you know by name today who were won to Christ by you and are now living for Him? How is the life of Christ in you being multiplied through you in the world?” Those are the questions we all need to answer here at Cornerstone. 


Cornerstone, we are not going to be consumer-driven for the best product, but culturally relevant and biblically centered. We are not going to be competitor-oriented, looking to compare with the churches down the street. We are going to be community-passionate about advancing a Kingdom one person at a time.

We are going to invert our ministry model and return to a biblical model (Cornerstone Discipleship Pathway) placing a premium on the One on One and then affording the small groups and corporate worship encounters to support the disciple-making process.

We are going to be more intentional with guests and new members, to begin with, clarity about who we are and why we do what we do as a church through our Cornerstone Connection Center, minister by Cornerstone Hospitality Team.

We are going to re-focus our small groups into churches within the church, focused on our community-at-large where ministry and connection are prioritized through community and missional service.

We are going to strive to help others learn to hear God’s voice, handle Scripture, and honor covenant so that they will herald His truth and help others to Christ. May God help us to become disciples and make disciples. Amen!

Pastor John Punni


Be Ready

 Matthew 24: 44: “So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”.

December 1, 2019 is the first Sunday of the Advent Season in the church year. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Jesus is coming – His arrival is just around the corner – and that is what we focus on during the Advent season. The Advent season is four Sundays long, which is why we have the four Advent candles – each candle is lit as we progress through the Advent season, until we reach Christmas, when we celebrate Christ’s first arrival as a baby in Bethlehem.

Advent is also a time for looking ahead for the second coming of Christ. “Ready”! That is the key word our gospel lesson mentioned.

Our gospel lesson says very plainly So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”.

And how do we get ready?

I. Daily Preparation

We are ready for His second coming by our daily preparation. Are you preparing for this day? Or, are you procrastinating? A spiritual procrastinator is someone who’s not ready. Someone who says, “Eventually I’ll get my act together spiritually. But not right now. I have too much going on.” 

Most people are still unprepared for the arrival of Christ. What about you? We struggle with this too, don’t we? “We will grow in my spiritual life,” we say, “but we will grow later.” “We will pray”,  we say, “but we will figure out how to do that later”.

Advent is a time of preparation. Martin Luther talked about this as he tells us to “drown our old self daily in the waters of our Baptism and then to rise up again as a new, forgiven person living in the grace of God.” 

II. Daily Repentance

We are to be ready for the coming of Christ through our act of repentance. We acknowledge before God that we need His grace through Christ, then we are symbolically drowned in the waters of Baptism and raised up to a new life.

We are to be ready by daily repentance. Repentance is the act of turning away from our sins to live a new life in Christ. And so if the second coming does come, God will see us as in our new selves, cleansed by the blood of Christ. God will recognize us because He made us clean through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Daily we must repent because daily we sin. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we do not have to repent because we are good even for God. We are never good enough for God. We are sinful people who need the daily washing away of our sins.

C.S. Lewis said: “A Christian is not one who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and begin over again after each stumble—because of the inner working of Christ.”

III. Daily Watch

A large number of Christians today don’t believe that Jesus will come during their lifetime. A Christian is someone who is always preparing, always watchful, always ready for the moment everything stops. That doesn’t mean that we stop doing the things we do. Those religious cults that tell people to quit their jobs and sit up on a mountain and wait for the end of the world – they are way off. That’s not what Jesus means when he says to be ready.

Watching for Christ means prioritizing for Christ. We do all the things we normally do, but Jesus is number one. Our relationship with Him is not at the bottom of our list of priorities, but at the top. Worship with other Christians – at the top. Bible study with other Christians, and by myself – at the top. Prayer is not something we do for 5-10 seconds a day if we remember, but it becomes a priority. Our relationship with Jesus becomes number one in our lives – that’s what it means to be watchful, to be ready. 

Advent is a time to refocus and regroup. Christ came as a baby and we celebrated. Christ will come again, of that we are assured. Christ comes into our midst today and that is where the living is today. And so, we begin Advent – as Edward Peterman puts it by “preparing for the revelation – that is, the full disclosure – of Jesus in the joy and sorrow, the laughter and the tears, the comedy and the tragedies of our daily lives here and now”. Therefore, Be Ready!!!

Pastor John Punni, II



I Thessalonians 5:16-18: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


When some think about thanksgiving they generally think about 3 things: Family, Food, and Football! WHAT? Yes, I’m serious. When they think of that 4th Thursday in November, those are the first things that pop in there! It is traditionally a day of being thankful for the stuff we have!

And that is the world’s perspective of thanksgiving. That could also be the reason why it is limited to a once a year event and to those things that are tangible.

In this passage, Paul tells us that true thanksgiving is a life of daily thanksliving. Paul tells us in these 3 verses to remember a few ways we can apply thanksliving in our daily life.


Rejoicing is not always about being happy! It is about being joyful! People are naturally happy on some occasions: Birthdays, Anniversaries, heading to Disney World, are all things that make us happy! Joy is not natural, but rather supernatural.

Christian’s joy is not dependent on circumstances. It comes from what Christ has done. It is constant – does not fade away! The lesson for the church is for us to be joyful! Because it is through our joy that we are able to allow ourselves to praise the Lord in good times, and not so good times!


Why is it important to pray without ceasing? It is the only way to cultivate a joyful attitude in times of trial.

It does not mean we should be on our knees 24/7!!! But that our hearts should be willing to be in constantly recurring prayer, growing out of a dependence on God. That means lifting our hearts to God whether words are uttered or not. But also allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in all situations.

Lesson for the church is prayer is our most powerful but the most unused resource. Often, we use prayer to manipulate God and easily give up when God doesn’t answer the way we feel is right. The primary purpose of prayer is NOT to change ourselves, NOT to change our situations, but to RESPOND BACK to our Creator. It seems basic, but that’s what it’s all about—building our relationship with God. 

Now Paul is about help us experience that Rejoicing Always and Pray Without Ceasing pave the way for Giving Thanks!


People of God thanked Him for everything! Why should we give thanks to God? Everything we have, our family, job, house, finances, friends…they are all blessings given to us by the Lord. All those experiences we gain, all that is good, and even some of those things that can test us…He is present in them! Because even our problems are temporary parts to God’s larger plan for our spiritual well-being.

Lesson for the church is to ask God to forgive us for ignoring Him in our life-by not giving Him thanks all the time. We need to make thanksgiving and thanksliving a habit in our lives all the time. We should not wait for a special day, but make it a daily practice.


Therefore, we should start thanksliving because it is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. Thanksliving is appropriate for every circumstance of daily life. It can abound in any aspect of human life. It will activate the joy of the Christian life. Because true thanksgiving is a life of daily thanksliving. Happy Thanksgiving and Thanksliving to you all!!!

Pastor John Punni, II