Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jul 17
2017

Building Community in Green Lake

Community, Discipleship | by Pastor Craig Sturm

Downtown Cornerstone is a community of communities scattered throughout the city, declaring and displaying the gospel of Jesus Christ in relationship to each other and the city. These are communities of diverse, imperfect people that are committed to living out the implications of the gospel in every sphere of life.

These are communities that eat together, pray together, laugh together, and study the Bible together – in essence, share life. These are communities that build up the church by encouraging people to faith in Jesus Christ and build up the city through deeds of justice and mercy. These are communities where you can be who God created you to be, yourself.

This month, we launched a new community in Green Lake! Taylor Hawkins will be leading the new community, so we asked him to answer a few questions about the people, vision, and prayer requests for the Green Lake neighborhood and community.

Q. What is your vision for the Green Lake community?

We want to cultivate a culture transparency, a culture that allows you to come and be real. (1 John 1:7) As we grow in our love for Jesus and one another, we want to be on mission together as well. Our desire is to be active in the community of Seattle (parties, parks, concerts, bars, restaurants, etc.) and create social gatherings that are easy to invite non believers to. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Q. What are you excited about in launching this new community?

We’re excited about creating our own community culture that seeks to build up one another in our faith and be on mission together in the city of Seattle. Our desire is to make much of Jesus in our lives and see others come to know him.

Q. Who will be a part of the Green Lake community?

Our core group is currently comprised of young professionals. Though much of our community is in a similar life stage, we’re open to any Seattleites that want to partner with us in their walk with Jesus.

Q. Any specific ways we can be praying?

Pray that God would show up and do what he does best, transform lives and bring about redemption. We’d like to grow in our personal walks with Jesus and see him open up opportunities for us to be a light to those walking in darkness.  

If you are not currently participating with a DCC Community and would like to be involved with Green Lake or another community, email community@downtowncornerstone.org.

Jul 6
2017

Stories of Grace | Diving In & Digging Deep

City Life, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.” 

Like so many who live in Seattle, our stay here will not be permanent. I’m relocating my family back to California after living in the Emerald City for four years. This decision has been years in the making, and it is one that I have had to approach with prayer and careful consideration.

For whatever reason, our lives are marked by constant travel and transition. When Sarah (my wife) and I first met, she lived outside Chicago and I lived in southern California. She traveled the country for work and stayed in one place from just a few weeks to a few months before moving on. I was a young attorney working way too many hours each day. We dated long-distance and flew to meet in various places until we got married in California a year later. After only a few months I transitioned to my company’s new office across the country in Washington D.C. And then, only two years later, we moved back across the country to Seattle. Throughout these first six years of marriage, we’ve both traveled an average of 100,000 domestic air miles annually.

In Washington D.C. we became members of a remarkable church called Redeemer Church of Arlington. Even though we both came from lifelong faith backgrounds, it was the first time we joined a body of believers where passionate and theologically rigorous teaching was the main focus. In addition, meeting with small groups of believers in our neighborhood was a church priority and we jumped right in.  With this church Sarah took a public step of faith through baptism because she found a new understanding of scripture and a reorientation of her faith. We made lifelong friends who challenged us to work constantly on our theology and to live ordinary life with gospel intentionality.

When we landed in Seattle in 2013, I already had a short list of church bodies to check out, but nonetheless I was concerned about where we would land. Having come from such a life-changing body of believers in Washington D.C,. we were understandably nervous about finding another church body strong enough for us to continue strengthening our understanding of Scripture, and that would guide us in intentionally living life through robust faith in Jesus.

Downtown Cornerstone Church was the second stop we made, and it immediately felt like home even though it met in an AMC movie theatre downtown. The theologically rigorous teaching and passion for Jesus Christ even stepped up a notch from our past experiences. We eventually became members of the church and learned an incredible amount through the teaching of the pastors and the focused commitment to mentorship and creating solid disciples of Christ. In fact, we actually completed the membership process around the time we started discussing whether we needed to move back to California.

I’m sure you are wondering why this life story matters, and why this guy is so long-winded. The point of all of this is that we learned the importance of being present, wherever the Lord has us. Both Seattle and Washington DC are transitory places by nature, where you can expect to be for a handful of years before moving along. When you know life will likely take you elsewhere, there is a strong temptation to limit involvement in your local body of believers and keep people from getting close. We like to use the excuse that we are saving people’s emotions or making sure not to use up limited church resources, or whatever. Taking that track will rob you, and rob others, of remarkable things that the Lord will do. We recognized that it is imperative to be where you are, when you are there.

Life does not start at some point in the future; life is what you are living right now. Don’t use the excuse that you’ll commit to a place once you get married, or have children, or buy a condo, or reach a certain point of financial or career stability. Commit now to the place where the Lord has you living and dive right in. I remember several moments where we made specific decisions to be present and not keep the church at arm’s length even though another move was imminent, and that decision yielded unfathomable results. We made genuine and deep Christian friendships in both Washington D.C. and Seattle, participated in church leadership and mentoring (on both sides), contributed to the start of brand-new community groups, learned the depths of Scripture at a new and exciting level, experienced true discipleship through rigorous education programs and cohorts of believers, and truly became Christians that we think non-believers like and respect. Had we taken a seat in the back row at the church gathering and bided our time, we would have regressed instead of enjoying the riches of God’s kingdom. All of this is remarkable evidence of the Lord’s grace in continuing to mold us in His image regardless of the ways we try and limit His ability to work.

Be present where you are when you are there, dig into the people God has placed around you, and allow the Lord to work. Don’t hold back waiting for some unknown future time to join in, because you will choke out the things He has in store.

There is always some trepidation at moving to another city when you have advanced in your faith. Not all bodies of believers have the same vibe, and not all teaching is as rigorous or intentional as others. Yet God, in His wisdom, created and provided church families for us to connect with and belong to in meaningful and substantial ways even during transitory periods. What’s holding you back from digging in and trusting all that He has for you where you are right now?

Growing in Christ,

Jonathan Lamb, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org

Jun 30
2017

“Is suffering in my life due to my sin?”

Scripture, Teaching | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

As we’ve walked through the major prophets over the last four weeks we’ve encountered the reality, again and again, of God’s severe, but ultimately loving, discipline of his people for centuries of rebellion. Admittedly, their situation was unique as there were different provisions under the Mosaic covenant for obedience and disobedience than for those of us, in Christ (e.g. Deut. 28:15,49-50). But, even so, it raises the natural question, “Is suffering in my life due to my sin?” I addressed this, in part, on Sunday but thought it would be helpful to provide a more thorough follow-up. 

We’ve all experienced it. A car accident. Loss of a job. Relational tension. Unexpected illness. Prolonged singleness. Sudden death of a loved on. Unmet expectations. Then, into heartache comes the searching question, “Is this because of something I have done?” It is often an honest question. After all, if God is trying to get our attention then we don’t want to miss it, right? How should we view the trial and troubles of life? 

Suffering is Complicated.

Here’s the answer: It’s complicated. We often don’t know if suffering is due to a specific sin. I say “often” because there are occasions when we do know that situations in our life are connected to our sin due to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. But, in most cases, it can be hard to filter through what is due to our sin, the sin of others, living in a broken world, or a combination of them all. That means we need to be careful here. We don’t want to end up like Job’s friends who wrongly blamed Job for his suffering. So, where does that leave us? While there is a lot that we don’t know about our circumstances, there is a lot that we do know about God, in Christ. 

#1 There is No Condemnation, in Christ, only Love. 

Firstly, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know our suffering is not a form of wrath-filled judgment and condemnation for our sin. Paul tells us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) In other words, Jesus bore the full condemnation our sin deserves on the cross. That means there is no additional punishment for our sin, whether past, present, or future. Therefore, we can know that our trials and troubles are not due to God’s condemnation for sin.

Even more, amidst them we can trust his love never wavers, after all, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” This is a good question. Do trials and troubles separate us from the love of Christ? Should we think God loves us less if we are facing difficulty? Paul is emphatic, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35, 37) We are not meant to measure God’s love by our circumstances, only Jesus (Rom. 5:8).  In Jesus, nothing––not even suffering––can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39). 

#2 He Uses All Things for Good.

Second, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that God is working all things in our life, even our suffering, for our ultimate good. Paul reminds us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28). Similarly, after being sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongly imprisoned for much of his twenties, when all was said and done Joseph could say, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). How could he say that? He discovered that God is at work in ways unseen amidst our trial and trouble. Of course, we don’t know exactly what he is doing, but at the very least he is growing our faith, increasing our love, deepening our grace, expanding our patience, cultivating wisdom, making us more useful for his purposes—in a word, transforming us into who we really are, as we become more like him. 

#3 He Will Never Leave You.

Third, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can also know that He is never going to give up on us and will finish the work He has begun in us. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That means we are never alone amidst our trials and troubles. Even more, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil1:6). This means our trials and troubles are not peripheral to God’s purposes in our lives, but part of them. So, in Christ, when all hope seems lost, it is not. When we’re tired, he is still at work. When we feel abandoned, he is still committed. When we feel alone, he is, in fact, near. We can bank our lives, now and forever, on these profound promises. 

#4 He Disciplines Those He Loves.

Fourth, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that He is aiming to get our attention—probably in relation to our self-reliance. This is why the author of Hebrews exhorts us to see all hardship, trial and trouble as part of God’s loving fatherly discipline (which means training, instruction, and formation) in our lives (Heb. 12:1-11). Whether or not it is connected to our sin, is not the point. The point is that God is purposefully at work, as a loving father, in lives of his children, and though his disciplne “seems painful rather than pleasant…later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). 

We see this in the life of Paul, in 2 Cor. 1:9, when he says, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death…” Paul was facing a literal death sentence. That’s a big deal. Then, notice how he interprets his perilous predicament. He continues, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Do you see what he is saying? He didn’t jump to interpreting his “sentence of death” as something due to his sin, or even the sin of others, but ultimately as a sovereign means of rooting out self-trust and increasing his trust in “God who raises the dead.” Our self-trust is why we sin. Our self-trust is often why we feel far from God. Our self-trust is typically why we don’t pray. Our self-trust is why we are more impressed with ourselves, and the things of the world, than with God. In other words, self-trust always leads to our harm. So God, in his great love and mercy, is bent on ridding us of it. Often he uses suffering and trial to clear the clutter of our hearts, rip out apathy, and open our eyes to what matters most. 

#5 Trials are Tools in His Hands.

Lastly, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that every trial and trouble we face is meant for our transformation, and through that, our deepest joy. Though God is not evil, he is able to use evil for our good. James encourages us to, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds.” Now, why would we do that? Consider it joy when we face trials? He’s not encouraging us to take joy in the trials themselves, as there is typically little joy found in them. But, there is joy found in what God can do through them. He continues, “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete…” (James 1:2-4).  In other words, in Christ, we can count all trials and troubles as joy not because of the trials themselves, but because of whose hands they are in. 

He Specializes in Redemptive Surprises.

In summary, we often won’t know if the troubles of life are due to our sin. However, there is a lot that we do know. We know that, in Christ, our trials are not punishment for sin. We know that, in Christ, our trials aren’t accurate measures of God’s love for us. We know that, in Christ, God is with us and will never give up on us. We know that, in Christ, God is able to use our trials for our ultimate good.  We know that, in Christ, God uses trials to increase our dependency on him and, ultimately, our joy in him. God is at work in our lives, even amidst trial and trouble, in one thousand unimaginable ways; often in ways we wouldn’t expect, nor want, nor even pray, but always in such ways that tend to his glory and our deepest joy. He specializes redemptive surprises. So, take heart, friends. God is at work—even in the dark. 

Trusting Him with you,
Pastor Adam

Jun 22
2017

A Family on Mission | Serve the City

City Life, Event, Service | by Pastor Craig Sturm

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7

Downtown Cornerstone,

We’re about three weeks away from our Serve the City event! If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to register and invite two or three neighbors, friends, family, or co-workers to join in as well!  

If you’re new or haven’t been around for a while, you may be wondering, “Why are we serving the city in this way?”As a church, we want to proclaim the Gospel in word and demonstrate it in deed. Because of that, here are three reasons why we are serving the city this summer, and why you should consider joining us:

1. WE’VE BEEN SERVED AND LOVED

Romans 5:8 says that even while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. As a church, we believe that we’ve been infinitely loved and served by God, through the person and work of Jesus. Because of that, we believe that the good news of the Gospel is not only shared in word, but demonstrated in deed. Serving is not just “giving back do-goodism”, but a tangible expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – serving as we’ve been served; loving as we’ve been loved, in Christ.

2. THERE’S A NEED

The Seattle School District has only 5 groundskeepers to maintain 34 schools in the South Seattle school district. This leaves many of the schools without adequate funding and manpower to maintain the properties. As such, these schools heavily rely on volunteer efforts to come alongside and help maintain their properties and facilities. We asked Seattle Schools where their greatest need is, and they told us Gatewood Elementary. We desire to be humble, responsive, loving, service partners with the school district.

3. WE’RE A FAMILY ON MISSION

Often when we think of the church, we think of it as a family, and it is (Eph 2:19, Gal 6:10), but more importantly, the church (us!) is God’s primary vehicle for the spread of the Gospel (Eph 3:8-11). We call that mission, or the “great commission” (Matt 28:18-20). God sent His son to seek and save the lost, and He sends us as His people, across the street and around the world – with the good news that Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and new life with Him, beginning now. The whole purpose of doing events like this is to not only love and serve the city, but create space to invite others to participate with us, and love and serve others as Christ has loved and served us.  

Practically…

1. Who can you reach out to this week and invite them to serve with you? 

Be praying now for good conversation, open doors, and that the Spirit of God would use something as simple as serving the city together to change the hearts and lives of our not-yet-believing friends for all eternity! 

2. How might you weave this into the rhythm of your community’s summer schedule?

It would be cool to see whole communities serving together, extending their connecting beyond just their regular meeting times. Talk with folks in your community about making this a summer priority!

That our joy in Jesus would be tangible to our city,

Pastor Craig

Here’s the video from a few years ago to help whet your appetite!

Screenshot 2014-07-15 10.21.00

Jun 21
2017

Stories of Grace | The Game is Not the Point

City Life, Service, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.” 

We’re playing Bingo, and the caller announces “B 4” into the microphone. I’m tempted to crack a lame joke and respond, “Before what?” But I resist.

It’s Friday afternoon and we’re at a session of Bingo at Bayview Retirement Community. Three gals in their twenties, two baby boys in their onesies, and a table of aging seniors with varying, but mostly limited, communication abilities—really, a table of adopted grandmothers for our sons. Oh, how they love our boys.

It started off pretty easy: two mamas with a sleeping baby in each stroller, helping seniors through the game of Bingo. Perhaps there was an occasional nursing session or a wheeling of the makeshift crib to calm the cries. But there was always a guarantee of adult conversation and the biggie: a reason to get out of the house.

As our babies grew, our Bingo play cards reduced from two, to one, to none. Our ability to help residents through the game followed a similar drop, though we are somehow able to improvise a tag team dance of kid-watch along with the help of the Activities Coordinator and a friend who joins us monthly. What started as a relaxing, adult-focused outing while our babies snoozed has morphed into a monthly rhythm that requires a determined and patient heart. I get out of my house to perform a workout of sorts that requires entertaining a curious toddler for two hours amidst Bingo calls, wheelchairs, and so many things he can’t touch. I am no longer just helping residents complete a game of Bingo, for the person sitting next to me actually has a complete Four Corner Cluster and we both forgot to call it.

But I’ve realized: the game is not the point.

When we enter the activity room on these Friday afternoons, the residents do not light up and smile because they think they might win a round of Bingo with our help. No, the game is not their joy; rather, seeing our boys is their joy (and sometimes they like hanging out with us, too). There is a lady who smiles, lips closed but eyes bright, every time she sees my son, Oliver. We always introduce ourselves. He waves, and she looks at him with adoration. After roughly eight visits, I was sitting at the table with Oliver in my lap. He had a toy and was seconds from squirming out of my hold and onto the floor to grab the microphone cord when from across the table she said it: “Oh, I know him!”

It was the first time I had heard her speak. She remembered us. She knew us.

God, could you work in her heart to know You, too? Could we aid in that introduction?

The hope was that this would be missional somehow. Since our community visits monthly, we ladies with weekday availability thought it would be helpful to also attend these Friday Bingo sessions. Another chance to get to know the residents, to deepen relationships, to be a help, and ultimately to share the love of Christ. While I’ve yet to navigate how to craft simple (and loud!) truth statements about God to seniors who have sadly lost much of their ability to hold a conversation, I hold out hope that something we are doing here is speaking of God’s love for them. I do know that we are helping to love and recognize a group of individuals often overlooked in our city. For God instructs us to love the widows and orphans, the vulnerable and down-trodden.

If an opportunity did arise where I could speak of Christ, perhaps the connections would be more quickly made. As they have seen us enter into their lives, they could see how Christ, the holy and eternal God, has entered into our human, mortal lives on earth. As we listen and play and assist, drawing near to them, perhaps they could know that God draws near to us. He is always present, ready to welcome and re-welcome sinners into His care.

So we continue with these Friday Bingo sessions at Bayview, two toddlers in tow. We have no idea what we’re doing, but we desire to love those that Christ has placed around us. We know God is continually shaping our hearts to love others more—especially those unlike us—and to depend on Him for all those awkward and inconvenient moments of service. Amazingly, he might use us to bring the good news of Christ to those in this nursing home. He may yet bring salvation to an old sinner.

It is not easy to love and serve the oppressed and the downtrodden. It can be hard, awkward, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But there are so many groups of people in our city who need to experience the love of Christ. What would it look like for you to serve as He has served us? Who is in your life that may be overlooked or unloved, and how can you begin to look and love on them? May we be an encouragement to one another as we draw near, pray, assist, serve, and yes, play Bingo.

– Beth Boyd, DCC Member