Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jan 25
2019

A Simple Way to Store Up God’s Word

Scripture | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

A Lesson from Billy Graham

On Sunday we walked through Psalm 119:11 and the importance of “storing up God’s Word in our heart that we might not sin against him.” You can listen to it here if you missed it. This post is a follow-up to that sermon in hopes of offering practical help in how to begin stockpiling the riches of God’s Word in your heart this year. 

A 2006 interview with Bill Graham (the most well-known evangelist of the 20th century) in Newsweek reported the following:

‘If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. “The greatest regret that I have is that I didn’t study more and read more,” he says. “I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now.”’

Think about that. Billy Graham wished he would have memorized more Scripture. There’s something to learn here. I took that to heart when I first read it and I’ve thought about it ever since. I remember saying to myself, “If this is something that the greatest evangelist of the last 100+ years feels at the end of his life, how likely is it that I will feel the same way unless I make some changes now?” Answer: Very likely. By God’s grace, albeit imperfectly, I’ve been attempting to work that out ever since. 

For Non-Photographic-Memory-Types

I once heard a pastor say that he’s never had to memorize scripture in his life because he has a photographic memory. That’s not very helpful for all of us non-photographic-memory-types. What about the rest of us who forget our phone number or where we put our keys, let alone how Psalm 23 ends? Years ago, as I was attempting to reinvigorate my practice of scripture memorization, I came across this by John Piper and this article by Andrew Davis, “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.” I have been influenced by both. 

A Simple Way to Memorize Scripture. 

I started memorizing scripture when I first began to follow Jesus at the University of Washington, but it was slow going. Previously, I was marking my progress by how much I could remember and because it didn’t stick right away it led to discouragement and, eventually, abandonment of further attempts. But, I discovered something in 2006 that forever changed how I approach this means of grace. What changed?

I stopped focusing on perceived progress and just kept track of daily time spent working on a verse, trusting my brain will get it when it was ready. Operate off of this principle: if your brain reviews something enough it will learn it. No question. Of course, all our brains are different. Some will memorize more quickly than others. Some will need to get more creative than others (e.g. songs, images, etc.). But, in time, it will come. Honestly, even if it doesn’t, no time in the Word is wasted. 

The Nitty-Gritty. 

Here’s how it has worked for me. I try to get at least an hour of personal time in the Word every morning (25-30 minutes in the Bible, 20 minutes in prayer, and about 10 minutes focused on scripture memory).

If I’m memorizing a large portion of scripture, I’ll focus on one verse a day, with the exceptions of Wednesdays and Fridays when I review the verses/sections previously committed to memory. Here’s how it works: 

  • REVIEW 10x’s: When I begin, I slowly repeat the verse(s) I worked on the previous day out loud ten times without looking at the text. You may need to look at the old verse briefly to remind yourself. That’s ok and normal. 
  • READ 10x’s: Then, I move onto the next new verse and read it carefully and slowly out loud ten times. As I do so, I try to imagine embossing the verse into my brain as I read over it.
  • REPEAT 10x’s: After, reading the new verse ten times, I will then repeat that same verse out loud ten times without looking at the text.
  • Note: As you memorize, you’ll want to set aside a day or two every week to review, rather than memorize new verses. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you. If you hang in there, you’ll actually begin to learn how your brain memorizes best.

That’s it. That will take 5-10 minutes. You can do it anywhere, whether at home, at work, or on the road. Repeat that every day, or whatever days you have set aside for it, and you will be surprised by how your brain absorbs what you’re doing, over time, even if you don’t feel like its working. It is working. When you hit a hard patch you may need to focus on the same verse/section for a couple of days. Don’t be hard on yourself. The point is to be chewing on God’s Word.

Think about it this way. Psalm 23 has six verses. If you did the above over the next week, you would have it pretty well memorized in 6-7 days. It may take you another week to have it polished. Davis, above, has some great recommendations for how to cement sections of scripture into your memory after you’ve memorized them so that you don’t lose them. (i.e. repeat Psalm 23 once every day over the next 100 days and you’ll never forget it) You’ll have to find what works for you. 

A Transformative Means of Grace

Personally, this has been an incredibly transformative means of grace (i.e. spiritual discipline). But, we do have to watch our hearts. The goal is not merely to memorize for the sake of memorization, but to trust and treasure Jesus more by hiding His Word in our heart. This practice has changed how I pray, what I think about, how I think about what I think about, where I turn for hope, how I read and understand the Scripture, how I offer hope and encouragement to others and more. Give it a shot. You may be surprised by how the Spirit may use even 10 minutes a day in your life as you internalize His Word. 

Christ is All, 

Pastor Adam

Jul 26
2018

A Culture of Care

Discipleship, Scripture, Teaching | by Pastor Craig Sturm

This month we’ve been exploring the transforming power of God in our lives through a sermon series called “Transformed: How Jesus Changes Lives.” My goal has been to help us see how the gospel of Jesus is active in pursuing real change in our Christian lives. I’ll land the plane of the series this coming Sunday – thinking through how we develop a culture of care within DCC.

EVERY CHURCH HAS A CULTURE

This is important for us to think about, because whether we realize it or not, some type of care culture is always active within our church. My prayer is that it would be a Jesus-centered, gracious culture in which people are receiving and extending gospel-saturated care to one another because that’s part of what it means to be the family of God.

Consider for a moment the various ways people in our church family would describe the struggles and hardships in their lives. You will hear terms like confusion, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, numbness, shame, guilt, anger, bitterness, injustice, betrayal, unforgiveness, loneliness, discontentment, and feeling overwhelmed. If the worship songs, liturgy, sermons, and conversations during a Sunday gathering or in community never address these struggles then people may wrongly conclude that the gospel is irrelevant, not offering hope for their reality.

We need to strive to make sure that the gospel that we read, sing, and preach Sunday after Sunday reorients and reshapes us as God’s people. Only God and His realities offer real hope in the difficulties of life.

A CULTURE OF CARE ROOTED IN THE GOSPEL

It’s good news to know that the gospel that changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh is the same gospel necessary for caring for God’s people. It’s good news that we, as a church family, can develop a culture of gospel care regardless of the number of elders, staff, members, attendees, and budget. It’s good news that we have access to the wisdom, love, and power needed to develop a culture of gospel care within the church.

“When any person’s struggles are rightly understood, the mercies of Jesus Christ directly connect. The Savior of the world is specifically relevant to personal, interpersonal, psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems. God meets people in the very places they are weak, confused, wandering, and self-absorbed. The Holy Spirit causes faith, love, and wisdom to flourish in the very places where anxiety, anger, anguish, and addiction consume us.” (David Powlison)

A CULTURE OF CARE ROOTED IN THEOLOGY

Our vision for a culture of gospel care stands on firm theological grounding. The following is a snapshot of some of the central theological commitments undergirding our vision and practice of gospel care.…

  1. It aims to be Centered on Jesus. (Rom. 5:6-11).

  2. It aims to be Rooted in Scripture. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

  3. It aims to be Grounded in Theology. (Rom. 11:36)

  4. It aims to be Dependent Upon the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:17-18)

  5. It aims to be Focused on Change. (Rom. 12:1-2)

  6. It aims to be Embedded in the Local Church. (Gal. 5:6)

  7. It aims to be Founded in Love. (1 Jn. 4:19-21).

  8. It aims to be Attentive to the Issues of the Heart. (Eph. 4:17-24)

  9. It aims to be Comprehensive in Understanding. (Prov. 20:5)

  10. It aims to be Thorough in Care. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

  11. It aims to be Relevant in Methodology.

  12. It aims to be Missional in Orientation. (John 3:1-15)

A VISION FOR A CULTURE OF GOSPEL CARE

We believe God builds His church as we love Him and others, specifically as we bear one another’s burdens and encourage one another to follow Jesus by faith. Therefore…DCC Care exists to help people know and experience joy in God so that they can live by faith and obedience in the midst of life’s struggles and help others do the same.

I pray that God will make us a people who are actively engaged in helping one another know and experience joy in God so that we can be a people living by faith and obedience in the midst of life’s struggles. By the grace of God, may He give us wisdom as we “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24), as we “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

That Jesus would be our chief joy,

Pastor Craig

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.

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

Mar 2
2017

Lent: Rejoicing in God’s Redemptive Story

Discipleship, Scripture | by Pastor Randy Lundy

We typically set aside the six Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter for intentional reflection, confession, and worship as a church family. In more ways than one, it is a unique opportunity to deepen our thoughts around the person and work of Jesus, and recall the many things that we’ve been saved from and to, through the power of his death and resurrection.

LITURGY AND WORSHIP

We’ll be changing up our flow of gathering a bit and take the first few minutes to reflect on the overarching story of God’s redemption of His people. One of the unique perspectives we’ll be weaving through these reflections is the contrast of light and darkness throughout Scripture. Here’s a quick summary of the weeks ahead, so you can be praying and preparing more specifically for worship with the church through this season of Lent:

Week #1 Creation (3/5) – God’s glory and perfection in creation

Week #2 Darkness (3/12) – Sin’s corruption and deception

Week #3 Intervention (3/19) – God’s provision and direction

Week #4 Presence (3/26) – God’s dwelling among his people

Week #5 Foreshadow (4/4) – God’s promise of a Redeemer

Week #6 Incarnation (4/9) – God’s entrance and culmination

We’ll also be walking through multiple scriptures and songs throughout the gatherings that weave together these themes of light/darkness, God’s redemptive story, and our current sermon series in Sermon on the Mount. All of these liturgical elements are intended to be experienced as a journey, not in isolation from one another. I’d encourage all of us to come early to the gatherings, so we can experience the fullness of what God has in store for us together during Lent.

WATCH AND PRAY

There are many good ways that we can prepare ourselves to worship in this season. I just want to highlight two particular postures of worship from Jesus’ words to his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion (Matthew 26:38-41) that I think would be fitting for framing this season for us:

#1 WATCH

This is a season of expectation and watching. In much the same way that Jesus was instructing his disciples, we would do well to be alert to what God is doing, what He is revealing, what He is wanting to show us through this season of reflection. This is both an attentiveness to the truths He’s bringing to the forefront, as well as an alertness to the state of our own souls. Not growing drowsy or distracted. But rather remaining focused and attentive, spiritually-minded and awake.

Practically speaking, as I said before, we’ll be kicking off the Lent reflections at the start of each gathering, so I’d encourage us all to come early, settle into your seat, give yourself some margin to be prayerful and spiritually ready before we begin to worship together. It’s easy to come in rushed and anxious and distracted. Do yourself a favor, and come early to give yourself time to prepare your heart for worship. You won’t regret it.

#2 PRAY

This is also a season of communing with God. Being in regular, intimate relationship with our Creator. It’s not about self-piety, self-pity, or self-performance. It’s about the Savior. This is a time when we come humbly before the Creator, relinquishing our self-independence, relishing the Redeemer, and rejoicing in all that God is and has done for us in Christ! Let’s look upward more than inward this Lent season, because Jesus is alive and his grace is available to all!

And practically, as we have moments of corporate confession together, periods of silence, and space for reflection in our gatherings – use that time to draw near to the One who hears. He loves to hear the earnest prayers of His people. If you sense hardness of heart, ask him to warm you with his grace. If you feel alone, ask him to cover you with his love and fatherly embrace. Wherever you are, cry out to him this Lent season, confessing sin and clinging to Jesus. He will meet us.

Love you all and praying that Jesus would use this season to give us much-needed space to deepen our trust in Him and experience His satisfying love in Christ. See you Sunday!

The tomb is empty!

Pastor Randy

Jan 11
2017

Ten Tips For Improving Your Bible Reading

Discipleship, Scripture | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Just like our bodies need food to flourish physically, so our souls need God’s Word to flourish spiritually (See 2 Tim 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). Our souls will shrivel without it. There is no other means of grace (aka spiritual discipline) that is more important than intentionally, regularly immersing yourself in God’s revealed word, the Bible. Not even prayer is as important (though it is a close second) because there is nothing we need more than to hear from Him. So, in light of this, let me offer the following ten tips to help improve your reading of the Bible this year.

#1 Ask yourself “Why do I read the Bible?”

This might seem like a strange place to start, but it is important to begin here. Often, we jump in without even considering this question. But, I’m growing increasingly convinced that our answer to this question may reveal why so many find reading the Bible dull drudgery – if they read it at all. Ask yourself, “Why do I read the Bible?” or, “Why do I think I should read the Bible?” Many people will answer by saying, “Because I am supposed to.” But, is that meant to be our primary motivation? “I’m supposed to.” No. Here’s the real question: “Do you want God?” In other words, do you want to know him more? Do you want to grow in relationship with him, understand who he is more fully, revel in all that he is for you, grasp his promises afresh, love what he loves, be more deeply anchored in what is most real? If so, you will want to read the Scripture. But, if God is not what your heart is ultimately after, then your reading will largely feel like dull drudgery, mere duty. Whenever we do the right thing (e.g. reading the Bible) for the wrong reasons (e.g. just because we should), it will always leave us dry and dissatisfied. When you read the Scripture because you want to know God more, it changes how you approach your reading. This doesn’t mean there won’t be times of dryness, there will be, just like in any other relationship, but the underlying motivation will propel you through those seasons. So, as we begin the year, maybe the first question isn’t, “How will I read the Bible this year?” but “Do I want God?”

#2 Read the Bible from love, not for it

The good news of Jesus’s life and work is that we are made right with God through faith alone, by grace alone, in him alone. In other words, we don’t earn or merit or deserve his incomparable love. For our purposes here, that means we don’t read the Bible in order to earn God’s love, but because we already have it. Or, to put it differently, reading the Bible won’t make him love us any more than he already does, in Jesus. Why point this out? Unless you are sure that you are safe with God, that he loves you, that he is completely committed to you, that he wants your best, you will never seek him. After all, if you see God as a vindictive, cruel, unapproachable task-master, why would you want to spend time with him? I wouldn’t. But, if God is immeasurably good, incomparably wise, unfathomably powerful and he has graciously made you his, in Jesus, that allows you to read the Bible from love, not for it. So, we can open up the pages of his Word day-after-day not to earn His love, but because we know we already have it.

#3 Understand the dynamics of your fallen heart

Nearly every morning I wake up and my heart has drifted back into it default position of unbelief. Pastor and author Paul Tripp, rightly calls this “gospel amnesia”. When I wake up I often feel like the weight of the world rests on my shoulders, that I need to earn the approval of others, that my worth is tied to my performance, that my treasure is found in this world, that I don’t really need God, and more. It’s embarrassing, really. But, we shouldn’t be surprised about this. Our hearts are like leaky buckets. Just when you thought it was filled, they start to empty. We need to know this about our hearts. This is just how fallen hearts function. Because of the nature of indwelling sin, our hearts effortlessly drift away from God like unanchored boats at sea. So, when we think, “I don’t really feel like spending time with God today?” we should respond by saying to ourselves, “I expect to feel that way. That’s my shady heart talking. I obviously need to take it in for a realignment.” Knowing that my heart is misaligned, to some degree, every morning motivates me to reorient my heart toward God and all that he is for me every morning. This happens most powerfully through the Bible.

#4 Raise the sail to catch the wind

In his helpful book Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God, Rankin Wilbourne uses the illustration of a sailor raising his sail to catch the wind as a metaphor for how we should approach the means of grace. Just as a sailor will not catch the wind if he doesn’t raise the sail, we will not grow if we do not raise the sails of our hearts through the means of grace – especially regular bible reading. Some object to this and say, “If salvation is all of grace, then why are you saying there is something I need to do?” Well, no doubt, life with God is all of grace. But, his grace invites us into a life that requires us to participate (see Phil 2:12-13). We play a crucial role in our ongoing growth. Now, of course, if anything good and worthwhile is to happen within us it is ultimately up to God. The sailor raises the sail, but he’s dependent on the wind to move the boat. Reading the Bible is like that. Humbly opening up the Scripture is how we raise the sail of our hearts, while knowing it is only God who sends the wind. Fortunately, more often than not, he loves to send the wind, so its not much of a gamble. We can’t control the wind, but we can raise the sail to catch it. If we don’t, its guaranteed we’ll do nothing but drift.

#5 Find a good translation

I remember being a new Christian in college wondering, “How in the world am I to pick the right Bible? There are too many options!” It can be overwhelming. If you’re a new, or renewed, follower of Jesus I recommend reading through the Bible using a study bible (e.g. ESV Study Bible, Gospel Transformation, Reformation Study Bible, NIV Life Application Bible, etc). Most Bibles with study notes offer enough information to answer your basic questions and ensure you don’t get needlessly hung up on what things mean. As far as Bibles themselves go, here is a good place to start:

ESV: Probably the best literal (word-for-word) modern translation available. The ESV is an updated version of the RSV. This is the translation we use on Sundays as a church. If you need one, feel free to take one of the paperback ESV’s we have available. Personally, I also enjoy the NASB and NKJV.

NIV: The NIV is the most popular dynamic-equivalent Bible of our day that seeks to strike a balance between matching the original word usage while communicating the original meaning. That makes it not quite as literal (i.e. word-for-word) as the ESV, but helpful and easy to read. You do need to be more discerning here as recent editions have introduced more gender neutral terminology that is not found in the original languages.

NLT: The New Living Translation belongs to the family of Bibles known as “paraphrases”. The goal of interpretation of these paraphrases is not to match word-for-word but to freely use language to highlight the original meaning. The Message is another popular paraphrase. The primary advantage of the NLT is that there was a translation committee involved, as opposed to the single authorship of The Message by Eugene Peterson (which is great too).

#6 Find a plan

This is where it is easiest to get lost. You want to know God. You understand that you’re reading the Bible from God’s love, not for it. You know your shady heart needs it. You’re ready to hoist the sail. You have your ESV open in front of you and think, “Oh, great, now what?” To avoid this moment, you need a plan. It doesn’t really matter what your plan is, provided you have one. Often in their eagerness, new believers will think, “I’m just going to read the Bible straight through.” I tried this myself. This might surprise you, but I don’t recommend it. Why? Because it can be really discouraging, especially once you hit Leviticus. Instead, try a plan that has you reading the Bible in a year. This is the one I use. If a year is intimidating, take two or three. it can also be helpful to read a chronological Bible reading plan so you get a sense of the order of events in the Scripture. Or, you could sink yourself into a single book, or study a character, or dive into a topic you’re interested in. Don’t worry about getting it right. Pick something. Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, try something new. Be sure to ask your friends what they’ve found helpful.

#7 Find a rhythm

If you don’t have a rhythm for when you’re going to get unhurried time with God through the Scripture, it likely won’t happen. Look at your calendar. Find a consistent block of time. Then, find a quiet spot. Turn your electronics off or leave them somewhere else in the house. Be intentional about making it a focused, non-distracting time. I remember once reading of a famous theologian, who had seven kids, whose wife would put a towel over her head at the kitchen table to read the Bible and pray. When the towel came out, the kids knew that momma was getting time with Jesus. Do whatever it takes. Get creative, even if it involves a towel. A relationship with God is forged like any other relationship – thru consistent, unhurried, quality time. Be patient with yourself, especially if this is new for you.

#8 Ask God to give you eyes to see

A passage of scripture that I regularly think of when I open my Bible is Psalm 119:18 that says, “Open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of your law.” We need God to open the eyes and ears of our hearts to see and hear what he has for us in his Word. This is why one person can read a section of the Bible and be bored to tears, while someone else may read the exact same section and be lost in the breathtaking beauty of what she finds there. So, when you open your Bible, pour out your heart to Him. Tell him you’re tired, distracted, or distant. Tell him your heart needs realignment around what is most real. Then, ask him to open your eyes. Tell him that you want to see, really see. Trust that the Spirit who inspired the writing of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21) is the same Spirit at work in you (Romans 8). Then read, full of faith, on the lookout for what he might bring to your attention. That leads us to the next tip.

#9 Stay on the lookout for God as you read

After asking God for help, be on the look out for how he wants to feed your soul and stir your heart. You’re really looking for one, maybe two, things to think about. Its hard to digest more than that in a single day. So, as you’re reading, you want to find a truth to savor for the day. Ask: What is this saying about God? What does God want me to learn here? What does this tell me about myself? What difference would it make today if I actually believed this? Try to find something about him to satisfy your hungry heart every day. More than likely, it won’t be something new that you haven’t seen before, though it might be, but more often it is something “old” that strikes you in a new, deeper way. The famous English pastor George Mueller was known for his goal of making his heart happy in God every morning. I’ve adopted that as my own goal ever since I first heard it. Read with intention. Look for what jumps out. Then, when it does, stop and savor it.

#10 Slow it down, then write it down

Have you ever spent time reading, then closed your Bible, and immediately forget what it is you’ve read. I’m sure you have. I have. It is a universal problem. Is there a way to avoid that? Yes. Slow it down. Then, write it down. By “slowing it down” I mean don’t spend all your time reading. Rather, read and then chew on something that you’ve read (this is called “meditating”). Take a verse, or two, that stood out. Stop. Read through it a number of times. Turn it into a prayer. Look at it from multiple angles. Imagine how your life would be different if you believed the truth in view. Take your time with it. So, for example, if you have 20 minutes to read. Spend 10 minutes reading and 10 minutes slowing down on one verse or passage that stood out. Writing it down helps to further solidify these things in your heart, especially if you’re prone to distraction. One thing I do, nearly every day, is write down a verse or two that stands out. I use a small notebook, but it could be anything, even a 3×5 card. Then, I pray through it and meditate on it. Then, I try to pull the notebook out around lunch and before bed to review those truths so that they are with me throughout the day. Give it a shot and see what works best for you.

Christ is all,

Pastor Adam

Oct 31
2014

Our Next Sermon Series: Philippians

Scripture, Teaching | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

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Downtown Cornerstone, 

 This Sunday (Nov 2nd) we are beginning our next sermon series. Here’s a snapshot of what’s ahead:

“In the year 62, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church he planted in the Roman colony of Philippi, located in modern day Greece. Today, we call that letter Philippians. This letter is filled with pastoral warmth, deep joy and genuine affection. Paul’s primary purpose in writing was not to correct, like many of his other letters, but to encourage the church in Philippi (and us) to make progress in their faith as they followed Jesus together. At its very heart is Paul’s declaration, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21). Philippians is a deeply Christ-centered letter and the best picture provided within the New Testament of what a maturing local church looks like. The major themes of this letter include: joy, thanksgiving, humility, unity, the advance of the gospel, perseverance, and over them all, the person of Jesus Christ. Join us as we learn from Paul what it looks like to follow Jesus together in our city, in our generation, for His glory and the good of as many as possible.” 

I am really looking forward to our time together in Philippians and what the Lord plans to do among us through it. Given all that is going on in our city, and within our church, this is the perfect letter for us in this season. Please pray for me as I continue to prepare the series. Please pray for us as a church that we’d have soft hearts that are hungry to learn, trust and follow. Please pray that Jesus would use this series to lead many to trust Him for the first time. Love you, all. See you on Sunday!

Christ is all,

Pastor Adam

 

Sep 19
2013

A Unique Bible Reading Plan

Scripture | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Photo1There is nothing that will stoke, shape, and transform your relationship with Jesus than consistent, focused, and intentional time in the Scriptures, the Bible. Though many of us know this theoretically, we struggle to implement it in the every day. Often, at least in my life, this is due to the fact that we don’t have a plan. I need some structure to my reading, otherwise it can devolve into a mere emotional exercise of “What do I feel like reading today?” So, if we’re discouraged, we go to Ecclesiastes. If we’re angry we go to Judges. If we’re happy we go to Philippians. If all else fails, we go to the Psalms. Having some sort of Bible reading plan can help keep our reading fresh, structured and moving forward. It’s helpful to sit down, open your Bible and know where you’re going.

Other Bible Reading Plans

There are many Bible reading plans available, such as these. Honestly, you can’t go wrong so just pick one that interests you. If you’ve never read through the entire Bible, I recommend that as a place to start and using a chronological reading plan to get a sense of the overall flow of God’s story in the Scriptures. Personally, I try to read through the entire Bible devotionally at least once a year, if not more, in addition to the reading required for my other studies, sermons, groups, classes, etc.

A Unique Bible Reading Plan

Over the years, I’ve used a number of plans but inevitably there were aspects to each I found cumbersome or less than ideal. So, two years ago I combined my two favorite readings plans to leverage the benefits of each – M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan and the Navigator Bible Reading plan. Yes, I am a Bible nerd. You can find the most recent version of this combined plan here.

Here are the benefits of this plan: 

  • Read through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once each year. Many plans get your through the New Testament once and the Old Testament once over the year. The result, however, is that you end up reading much more Old Testament than New Testament which causes some imbalance.
  • Read four different parts of the Bible every day. Reading various parts of the Bible every day helps you see the themes that span the ark of the storyline, keeps your reading fresh and prevents you from getting discouraged if you’re slogging your way through a single book (think: Leviticus).
  • Reading is planned for only 25 days of each month. This is huge. I borrowed this from the Navigator plan. We all know how easy it is to get behind and how difficult it is to catch up. With only 25 days of planned reading each month, you have five catch-up days or five days for more specific study.
  • Months are numbered. Understandably, most reading plans begin in January. However, that creates the feeling that the best/only time to start a year-long reading plan is at the start of the year. What if I want to start in September? The months on this plan are numbered so you can start at the front of any month.

Hope this is helpful as you grow to trust and treasure Jesus.

Christ is all,
Pastor Adam

 

Jul 23
2013

10 Gospel-saturated Verses to Memorize

Scripture | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

In my personal and pastoral experience, there is no better way to keep the gospel central, clear and uncluttered than memorizing particular passages of scripture that deal explicitly with the gospel. The act of memorization forces you to define the gospel biblically. The result of memorization is that the gospel is now within you, ready to be recalled anytime you need some gospel encouragement or have an opportunity to share. Below are ten verses on the gospel to consider memorizing. You don’t have to memorize them all. Start with your three favorite verses and go from there.

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”  – Rom 3:23-25

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Rom 5:8

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” – Rom 10:9-10

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. ” – 1Cor 15:3-4

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2Cor 5:21

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” – 1Tim 1:15

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” – 1Tim 2:5-6

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” – 1Peter 2:24-25

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” – 1Peter 3:18

Try not to view the practice of memorization as merely a task to be completed but, rather, just another way of bringing the good news of the gospel home to your heart. Take your time. Enjoy the good news. Consider the implications it should have in your life. Share with others what you learn along the way.

Trusting and treasuring Jesus with you,

Pastor Adam