Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Apr 27
2018

Stories of Grace | God Answers

Discipleship, Scripture, 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.”

“I should use my time more for others.”

This half thought, half prayer flitted through my mind during my community’s discussion of this year’s earlier sermon about using our time. When I left community, the thought left my mind.

Exactly 24 hours later, I was sitting in my car with a distraught friend, assuring her she could stay with me as long as she needed. She’d called me sobbing, barely able to get words out, but I knew instinctively she needed to leave where she was. When I went to pick her up, she was standing on the sidewalk, a giant suitcase next to her. A relationship that had never been great had turned categorically abusive and manipulative.

Feelings of overwhelming inadequacy seeped into my mind as I listened to her pour out months of pent-up problems that had festered in this relationship. I’ve never been in her situation, I thought. How do I empathize, offer anything true or helpful? I’m not a counselor. I have no idea what to say. What do I do? My half-hearted prayer from the day before flashed through my mind. The feeling of inadequacy was immediately replaced by a certainty that God had received that prayer, chuckled a little, and opened wide the gates on a situation He had been carefully preparing.

Let me clarify one point about time: I love being alone. My routines and time to myself each day have always been vital to my well-being. Having an indefinitely-invited houseguest was not what I’d meant by using my time more for others. I’d vaguely pictured volunteering once a week for a couple hours, something I could comfortably leave when I wanted.

But then she moved in, and I knew she could not go back to where she’d been. During the next two and a half weeks, her tears were constant, her questions were staggering, and the lies she was fighting were so pervasive I almost didn’t believe God could transform them into truth.

Though she grew up in the church, her understanding of God’s love was distorted beyond recognition. One night, she described her conception of God. “He’s like an angry teacher,” she said, “waiting in the classroom to punish me because He knows I haven’t done my work and that I keep missing class. Things will only get worse if I go into the classroom, because He knows how far behind I am and what a negligent student I’ve been my whole life. I can’t face Him.”

Every time she articulated unworthiness, guilt, condemnation, self-loathing, and other hell-sent lies, I wanted to shake her and shout, – at the lies, not at her – “These things are not true of you! This is not love! This is not how God sees you!” There was a near-tangible darkness over her that I knew I was incapable of fixing. This didn’t require a mere shift in thinking – the Spirit of God needed to renew her mind and soul. The only solution I could offer was the powerful Word of God.

The next morning, I opened Isaiah and read this: “[The Lord] will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.”

I was stunned by God’s intimacy. As far as I know, this chapter is the only time in the Old Testament God is directly titled Teacher. I didn’t go looking for this verse; it was just up next in my daily reading. God wanted her to see and know a loving and pursuing Teacher, not a retributive one. And He wanted me to know that His word is sufficient truth for every situation, even the ones that seem layered in lies. I showed her the words, and from then on, we started reading the Bible together each day.

I know my initial reaction to those lies is only the faintest reflection of how God views our sin. With incisive clarity, I saw God looking at my sin as I was looking at my friend’s struggle. If I could feel devastated at the hold these lies had on her, it must be only a shadow of the way God feels when we choose sin over Him. But God’s grace is to keep gently pointing us back to Him as the only loving and good Teacher who can free us into truth.

In those weeks, God changed my ideas of what it means to serve Him with the time I like to think is mine. And as I relied on Him for wisdom, He moved in ways I had rarely experienced before. My confidence in the power of His Word grew with each conversation, as I begged the Spirit to use His words, not mine, to speak truth into the lies. Answers to problems I could not solve came directly from His Word. With that half-hearted prayer about my time, He reoriented the purpose of my days to bring healing to one of His beloved children, growth in my own faith, and glory to Himself.

– Elisabeth Schyberg, DCC Member

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

Apr 26
2018

Seven Lessons On Our Seventh Birthday

News | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

This month we celebrated our seventh birthday as a church. We weren’t able to properly highlight it because it coincided with Easter Sunday. However, I thought it would be helpful to speak to it, before the month’s end, so that we don’t miss an opportunity to revel in the grace of Jesus among us.

Getting Started

I remember our first Sunday well. We had spent the previous ten months growing our launch community, helping people move downtown, sharing the gospel, serving the city, fundraising, training disciples, studying the scriptures, desperately praying, developing our vision and values, all while growing as a sent people. It was exhilarating and, to be honest, frightening. We met in apartments, conference rooms, dingy basements, and cafes. I networked with anyone who was willing to speak with me, including pastors, lawyers, programmers, small business owners, non-profit directors, and city council members. I ended each of those meetings by asking, “Who else do you know that may be interested in what we are trying to do?” I lost track of how many people I met with. 

Our First Sunday

After ten months of preparation, we marked our birth as a church on the first Sunday of April 2011 at Court in the Square, a former alleyway turned foyer, in Pioneer Square. Jen was one week (!) out from having our third child, Ella. Carter was four. Macy was two. Our kids accounted for the bulk of the kids ministry. If I remember rightly, we had 135 people join us that Sunday, many of whom were well-wishers. I preached on Jesus as the Cornerstone. The following Sundays, with all the well-wishers gone, we averaged 95 or so and began to grow from there. We continued to teach the Bible, share the gospel, baptize new believers, multiply communities, and disciple one another.

Seven Years Later

Fast-forward seven years and what Jesus has done is nothing short of incredible, particularly in our context. It is easy to take for granted, which is one reason we take time to celebrate our birthday. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t even exist. That is not a testament to our ingenuity, wit, or diligence. That is a testament to Jesus’ grace, love, and transformative power. We’re not saying “Hey, look at us!” We’re saying, “Hey, look at him!” I’ve been involved in church planting circles for nearly fifteen years and I can tell you that this is not par for the course. We have much to be grateful for and those to whom much is given, much is required (Lk. 12:48). Therefore, in light of all this, I thought I’d take our birthday as an opportunity to highlight seven key lessons from the last seven years. 

#1 We can take God at His Word.

There can be a lot of pressure to cut corners (practically, theologically, or otherwise) to get a church planted when you have little funding, few people, two little kids and a pregnant wife, as you live in a cramped over-priced apartment, in an incredibly under-reached city. It is uncomfortable. You need firm convictions about what the Bible is and what it does to stand amidst such discomfort. By God’s grace, from the beginning, we decided the Word must be central. No props. No gimmicks. No marketing hacks. No glossing-over the hard stuff. Just the pure, undiluted Word of God taught with love. I’m embarrassed to say now that I was surprised then to discover how powerful the Bible is. Teaching through the Bible pumps the reality of God, and all that he is for us, into the bloodstream of his church. The Bible creates appetites for God that it goes on to satisfy. As we’ve taken God at his Word friends have been saved, sleeping Christians awakened, and a church was born. We can trust His Word. 

#2 Relationships are the bread-and-butter of discipleship.

Preaching is central to the life of Jesus’ church. Without preaching, a church won’t be around long. But, though preaching is indispensable, hearing faithful preaching isn’t the only ingredient to our discipleship, nor a guarantee that we’re growing. I’ve met with many people who, though they’ve heard countless sermons, when faced with the question, “What is the gospel?” are unable to provide a clear answer. Hearing the gospel is one thing, but embracing it with the heart is another. Hearing about forgiveness is one thing, but forgiving others is another. Hearing about sharing our faith is one thing, but doing it is another. Hearing about the importance of the local church is one thing, but being an integral part of one is another. You get the picture. It takes someone looking at you across a Starbucks table asking loving questions to reveal the disconnects between what we’ve heard and how we’re actually living. In other words, relationships are the bread-and-butter of discipleship. Those who are the most relationally invested are typically those who grow the most and are of the most help to others. That’s not a coincidence. 

#3 People are hungry for truth—even the hard bits.

Our world is in search of answers because we’re becoming increasingly unmoored from the truth. The very things that many caution against talking about—sovereign grace in salvation, the reality of hell, gender complementarity, sexual immortality, the exclusivity of Jesus, and more—are the very things we need to be talking about. The goal, of course, is not to be intentionally controversial, but loving. There are realities revealed in the Bible that God wants us to know for our good and flourishing. These matters, and others like them, directly impact how we view God and make decisions that will literally have eternal repercussions. This was highlighted two and a half years ago when we walked through the On Being Human series, where we talked about masculinity, femininity, sexuality and more. Honestly, we envisioned the series would be one of healthy “pruning” for our church, but the opposite occurred and we grew. It showed us that people are hungry for truth—even the hard bits. 

#4 Jesus is alive and changing lives.

I fear this may strike you as a religious platitude. I hope not. He is alive, after all (Mt. 28:5). We’ve seen Jesus at work over-and-over again: forgiving sin, giving new life, infusing fresh hope, changing ungodly desires, bringing sin into the light, granting wisdom, bringing reconciliation, offering freedom from anxiety, forging new relationships, creating new spiritual taste buds for truth, answering prayer, brining physical healing, giving supernatural love for his church, calling to the mission field and church planting, creating generous hearts and hands, and more. By the Spirit, Jesus is at work among us in countless ways, seen and unseen. He meant it when he said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). So, we can have confidence whether we’re at the office, in our yard, or gathered with the church that Jesus is at work in and through us. We are participating in his unfolding drama of redemption.

#5 Prayer really does matter.

As far back as I can remember we have carved out space to pray as a newly forming church. This was never a “we should do this because this is what a church does” sort of thing. No. It was a “we need to pray or we won’t survive” sort of thing. It felt impossible because it was impossible. Our prayer has always been, “Lord, we want to see what you can do, not merely what we can do. Move among us in ways that make it obvious you have done this.” John Calvin called prayer the chief exercise of faith, meaning that one of the primary ways faith expresses itself is in prayer. We wanted prayer to be integral to the fabric of our church. That said, prayer can feel awkward. We may wonder if our simple, broken, wandering prayers will actually make any difference. But, God has repeatedly shown us that he hears the imperfect prayers of his people, in Jesus. Like a good Father, he delights in giving his children good gifts (Mt. 7:9-11). He has done so for us, over and over again. 

#6 His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

It’s important to include this. I wouldn’t want the previous points to paint a picture that this has been an easy seven years. They have, in fact, been the most difficult years of my life. We’ve seen friends walk away from the faith—and still pray for their return. We’ve encountered adultery, addiction, and suicide. We’ve been lied too and lied about. We’ve encountered the Enemy on multiple occasions. We’ve had bad ideas. We’ve repeatedly pressed up against the realities of our limitations. Some say, “There are too many young people.” Others say, “There are not enough old people.” Still others, “There is not enough diversity.” Yet others, “There are not enough college students.” This is just for starters. Oh, how acutely I see and sense all the imperfections of our church! Yet, we must not miss the miracle that our church is! Amidst it all, Jesus has continued to bring us back to his promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Our hope isn’t in a perfect church, but a perfect savior. He uses our weaknesses, limitations, imperfections, and sufferings to further his purposes. What an encouragement this is! 

#7 This is not fast work, but Jesus is at work. 

You get the sense from reading the Bible that God works on a different timetable than us: Noah was 600 years old when the rains came (Gen. 7:6). Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran (Gen. 12:4). Joseph spent most of his 20’s in an Egyptian prison (Gen. 41-46). The Israelites were enslaved for 400 years. Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness as a shepherd, before he spent another 40 years in the wilderness as a shepherd of God’s people. Over and over, we see the Lord’s timetable is not what we would expect. The same is true for our lives—and our church. On the one hand, Jesus has accomplished much in seven years. Yet, on the other hand, there is still so much to be done (see point #6). This is not fast work, but Jesus is at work. Our call is to be faithful as we pursue God-given fruitfulness.  

Happy (belated) birthday, DCC! Jesus is the cornerstone or our lives, our church, and this city. We have so much to be thankful for. Let’s move into the next seven years filled with faith, hope, and love—especially love (1 Cor. 13:13). Let’s also continue to ask him to do what only he can for his glory and the joy of all people. Who knows what he might do next? Let’s find out together. 

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Christ is all, 

Pastor Adam

Apr 4
2018

Stories of Grace | Family Found

City Life, Community, 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.”

Almost eight years ago, my girlfriend at the time made a choice to pack her bags and leave the sunny shores of California for an internship opportunity in New York City.  She was confidently pursuing a dream that she had held for a very long time. I knew better than to be the one to stop her.

While Amy and I had talked about what it would look like for me to move to the East Coast as well, I was extremely hesitant to leave behind my very comfortable surroundings. Both of my parents were from families based in California. I had grown up my whole life in Orange County. Since as early as I could remember, I had been blessed in knowing and being known in church families that were integral parts of my life. From Christian summer camp friends, to small-group men that became roommates when I first moved out, I was never without friends and family close-by.

Yet despite all of these undisturbed comforts, God had begun to put on itch on my heart to leave California and follow Amy to New York.

Skipping many of the details of the way God “parted the sea” for my extremely effortless move to New York — which, talk to anyone that’s moved to New York from out of state, it’s not easy! — I soon found myself living in Brooklyn, only a block away from Amy. It was fall and the Christmas holiday was quickly approaching.

Amy and I spent Christmas together in New York that year. After doing our best to recreate the traditions we would both do with our families, we quickly realized how far removed we were from being with those people who were closest to us. We were those annoying family members who called and asked to be passed between all the relatives and family friends so we could feel like we were there.

Despite meeting numerous people over the next year, often we still felt like our closest friends were on the other side of the country. This stopped us, in many ways, from being fully present in several of the relationships and opportunities that God put before us.

Building into this same story, we were slow in finding a church to be a part of. Now, to be clear, we were going to church every weekend. In fact, we found the biggest reformed Christian church in the city and loved attending and soaking up the riches of the Sunday sermon.

But something was still missing. We were “attendees” of a church, and not creating relationships beyond the weekly meet and greet. Funny enough, the church was so big, we used to joke it wouldn’t matter if we remembered the names of the people sitting behind us, because the likelihood of actually seeing them again was so slim.

Having grown up in a family that was highly involved in the local church, I knew what we were doing was not “church’’. Going to church does not mean you are a part of the church. Even more so, we were going to church but had no desire to give back to the church.  It wasn’t until a year later when we were able to realize the joy of being a participating member of the church family. And what a difference it was.

By our second year in the big city, we stumbled upon another church we had heard about through the grapevine. It was another reformed gathering that had great music, good teaching, and people in similar stages of life as we were. The difference was it also had community gatherings, and the leaders often spoke about it and encouraged people to get plugged into these. Amy and I, now engaged, had never been a part of a community gathering in this type of sense.

In our remaining two years in New York, our Brooklyn community became a core source of support and friendship. And these were not just friends we would occasionally bump into. These were friends we would celebrate holidays and birthdays with, babysit for, ask for moving help from, road-trip with, call with heavy decisions to make, and much more. And yet, I will tell you emphatically — and this is not just because New York attracts the most unique people — we could not be more different from one another.  Something bound us together in a very fitting way.

I learned this is one of the hidden mysteries of Christ. Outside of any job or set of hobbies, any gender or ethnicity, any hometown or parallel past, Christ was the common bond that always rose above.  I had found a family of people that loved God and loved me for the imperfect sinner that I was.  We longed to do life with one another.

Reflecting on this experience reminds me of the verse in Revelation 7:9-10 that says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

God, by His grace, continues to reveal this mysterious truth to me, even now in Seattle, where we’ve been for nearly three years. There is always a family, a local church, that God has prepared for us.  Always a family that is welcoming me “home” even if it is 3,000 miles from where I just was.

After learning the joys of being a part of community, you only can imagine how eager Amy and I both were to find a community when we first came to Seattle. In fact, I sent several emails to local churches asking to hear more about their community gathering.

I received a reply from the community deacon at DCC.  He excitedly connected me to the community leader in Queen Anne. Before I could even finish typing my “thank you” response, I received an email from the local community leader, himself. He wanted to know what service I typically attended so we could meet up that Sunday.

Once again, I am beyond blessed to say I have found a family like I could never have anticipated or imagined here in Seattle.  And this, I confidently know, is something God has prepared for any and all of His disciples wherever they go.

– Dave Osborne, DCC Member

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

Mar 22
2018

An Invitation to Good Friday and Easter

Easter, Good Friday | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

We are quickly approaching Good Friday and Easter. 

What is Good Friday? 

Good Friday marks the day that Jesus was unlawfully tried and brutally murdered on a cross outside Jerusalem, nearly 2,000 years ago. It can seem so far removed from our lives—historically and culturally—that we simply dismiss it as a mere footnote of history. But, it is not a footnote. Good Friday marks the culmination of the redemptive promises of God in the substitutionary death of Jesus, to rescue all who place their faith in him (1 Pet. 2:24-25). 

What is Easter? 

Easter Sunday marks the day on which Jesus triumphantly rose from the grave. His resurrection served as an exclamation mark to all he said and achieved (Rom. 1:4). While many reject the resurrection as a figment of ancient imagination, we should ask whether that rejection is well-founded or merely a by-product of cultural bias. There was no reason to invent the resurrection. It was completely implausible to begin with. So, the question isn’t “What do I feel about the resurrection?” but “Is the resurrection true?” If the resurrection is true, which I believe it is, that changes everything about everything. 

A Man Unlike Any Other Man

Jesus is the best known and most influential human the world has ever known. More lives have been changed by him, books written about him, and songs sung to him than anyone—ever. The Western calendar literally revolves around his arrival. Today, 2.2 billion people identify themselves as Christians and see him as the way to God. That means that followers of Jesus makes up a greater proportion of the world’s population now than ever before. No other figure comes close to crossing cultural, racial, political, historical, and geographical boundaries as extensively as Jesus. Why? He is risen. That is why we celebrate Good Friday and Easter. 

The Details

Good Friday occurs on Friday, March 30th. We will have two gatherings: 6:00pm and 8:00pm (Note: Kids will only be available at the 6:00pm). Every year we prayerfully labor to create a new experience of the old story. This year, multiple readers will walk us through the story of Good Friday. There will be a 30 minute sermon explaining what Jesus achieved on the cross and its ongoing relevance to our lives. We will also sing, pray, and reflect. This gathering is always uniquely moving.

Easter occurs on Sunday, April 1st. We will have four gatherings: 8:00am, 10:00am, 12:00pm, and 5:00pm (Note: Kids will be available at all gatherings, except the 5:00pm). There will be a 40 minute sermon, as part of our ongoing series in 1 Peter, along with baptisms at every gathering. We recommend that you arrive early to secure seats, especially if you anticipate having a large party. We also encourage members, if possible, to attend the 8:00am, 12:00pm or 5:00pm to make room for visitors at the 10:00am. This Sunday also happens to correspond to DCC’s seventh birthday, making for an even greater celebration. 

Let’s ask Jesus to save, awaken, and reinvigorate souls to the breathtaking reality of his grace over this weekend—in our lives and in the lives of all who do not yet know him. 

Because the tomb is empty,
Pastor Adam

P.S. There are a number of work parties happening this weekend in order to prepare for next weekend. Would you be able to give couple hours to help? To learn more and sign-up go here.