Downtown Cornerstone Blog
May 28
2020

Pursuing God Together in the Midst of Weariness

Discipleship | by Pastor Craig Sturm

Pastoral Note

Downtown Cornerstone,

I woke up recently feeling tired and weary, honestly a bit worn out—like a rubber band that has been stretched too many times to hold its elasticity.

It had been a hard week, wrestling with disappointments in myself, frustrations over the quarantine, and feeling the weight of entering into the struggles of others—broken relationships, racial heartache, fear of the future, unrepentant sin, discouraging health prognosis (just to name a few).

A phrase from Psalm 6:6 that represented my heart that morning was simply, “I am weary.” I remember crying out to God: “I am tired. Lord, it feels like the tank is empty.”

Can you relate?

A couple of days later I was reading back through a devotional resource I have used for many years. Inside the back cover I found a faded sticky note in my own handwriting. On the top was written: “In the Midst of Weariness…” Under that were four simple statements on how to work through my weariness. I’m not sure when I first wrote it, or who I got it from. But, it was a kindness of God to me that I found it!

So much so, that I wanted to share them with you (with a fifth I have added).

#1 REST IN GOD’S GRACE TO RESTORE YOU

Isaiah 40:29-31:

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Notice here: we will all grow weary! But, in our weariness, we have the strong assurance that God—who never grows weary—will renew our strength as we wait, in faith, on His kindnesses and strengthening.

#2 ROOT OUT YOUR IDOLS

Galatians 6:7:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

When it comes to seasons of weariness, I have found it crucial to ask: “What am I trusting in to give me rest? Is it a life free of fear, stress? Is it perfect health?” In other words, what have I been sowing, that is contributing to the weariness I am reaping? In searching my heart, I am seeking to root out whatever I am trusting in, apart from God, to be for me what only He can be for me. And then bring that in confession before Him, seeking forgiveness and restoration.

#3 REMEMBER, GOD IS IN CONTROL

Galatians 6:9:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

In my weariness, I need the reminder that He promises a harvest of good fruit—if I will not give up and persevere. And that good fruit will be good according to God’s definition of good: my growth to be like Jesus; the giving of grace to others in their time of need; and most importantly, the bringing of glory to His name.

#4 CONTINUE TO WHOLEHEARTEDLY INVEST IN PEOPLE

Paul ends his thought on persevering through weariness with an outward application in Galatians 6:10:

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a vital piece of the puzzle when I am weary, is to continue to press outside myself to invest in the lives of others. Notice this was fourth on the list…As I rest in God and find my strength in Him; as I root out false idols I am trusting in besides Him; and as I remember that He is in control and will bring the harvest of good fruit — then I can look at the opportunities I have been given to invest in discipling and caring for those He has brought into my life.

That brings me to the fifth piece I have added: In the midst of weariness, as I am working through the previous exhortations, I must continue to pursue God.

#5  PURSUE GOD

The psalmist displays this pursuit so beautifully in Psalm 63:1,8:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water…My soul clings to you your right hand upholds me.

I love how A.W. Tozer spoke of this pursuit: “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit…but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand…”

AN INVITATION TO THE PURSUIT OF GOD DEVOTIONAL READING GROUP

I’d love to invite you to a tangible application of this call to pursue God. I am going to be facilitating a devotional reading group, working through Tozer’s classic The Pursuit of GodThis is one of the few books I have found myself reading, and re-reading over the years!

Consider joining myself and others as we reflect on what pursuit of God looks like in our lives. We’ll work through the ten chapters, one per week until we’re done. FYI, the chapters take about 12-15 minutes to read (or you could grab the audio version).

I’m going to offer it both Tuesday mornings at 7:30AM and also Wednesdays at Noon. We’ll talk about 30 minutes and then pray. If you are interested in either of those, email me at craig@downtowncornerstone.org, and I’ll get you set up so that you receive reminders and the Zoom link. We will begin next week.

Participation would look like this: reading or listening to the chapter for that week; coming prepared having thought through the chapter, especially thinking: “Is there anything in the chapter that draws my heart to understand God better? What in the chapter was helpful in helping me understand what it looks like to pursue a deeper relationship with God? What is a tangible action I can take moving forward?”

Praise God He is the God of the weary! May our pursuit of Him refresh, restore, and renew our weary hearts, minds, and bodies.

Pastor Craig

May 15
2020

Longing for Justice in a World Gone Mad

Community, Racial Reconciliation | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Downtown Cornerstone,

By now you’ve seen the news of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, outside Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, and his father, attempted to make an armed citizen’s arrest of Ahmaud, who they believed was involved in a string of residential burglaries, while he was jogging unarmed. However, an altercation ensued and Ahmaud was shot two times in the chest, resulting in his death. Since the victim was an unarmed African American and the assailants were armed white men this is understandably seen as another sad episode of racial violence in our nation’s history. Additionally, the fact it took three months for the McMichael’s to be charged has rightly raised significant questions about the just handling of this case by local authorities.

So, what are we to do with this news?

FIRST, WE MUST LAMENT

Regardless of the details, this is another deeply troubling manifestation of a world groaning under the weight of sin. This world is not as it should be—it hasn’t been since the fall (Gen. 3) and it won’t be until Jesus returns (Rev. 20-22). Relationships break down. Words are wielded to wound. Power is abused. Sexuality is distorted. Biases exploit. Emotions manipulate. Violence reigns. Justice is perverted. Unarmed joggers, made in the image of God, are shot in broad daylight. Unfortunately, this isn’t new; this is as old as humanity itself. It is right to long for justice amidst a world gone mad.

So, how are we to cope? The Bible’s answer is, in part, to lament. A lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow to God. The Psalms are filled with such laments (e.g. Psalm 12, 22, 44, 88). In fact, an entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations, which laments the fall of Jerusalem to foreign invaders. To lament is to express your pain, your struggles, your doubts, and your unresolved questions to God. Start with lament by directing your pain Godward.

SECOND, WE MUST MOURN

The historical relationship between whites and blacks in our country is filled with unconscionable violence and unspeakable injustice. That history serves as an important backdrop for how events, such as this, are perceived. From one angle, this situation could look like an over-zealous attempt-gone-wrong to protect your neighborhood. But, from another angle, it looks like yet another incident of a young unarmed black man who is killed without due process (e.g. Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, et. al.). Was race a factor? We don’t know. But, it certainly doesn’t appear that ‘black lives matter’ when it takes three months and a public video release for the wheels of justice to get set in motion.

Regardless of the details, we must mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15). Not every minority or African American processes such incidents in the same way—just like anyone else. After all, suffering isn’t monolithic. But, we can still mourn that such situations continue to be a reality. We can mourn that some may wonder if they’ll be ok if they go out for a jog. We can mourn that some little boys and girls grow up wondering how they’ll be treated in a majority context. To every African American, we express profound pain and sorrow with you. We join you in this time of mourning and stand with you.

THIRD, WE MUST LEAN IN

These issues didn’t emerge overnight nor will they quickly go away. So, we must take the long view even as we seek to do as much good as we can today. If we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (which is the second greatest commandment, Mark 12:31) that means we must lean into areas we are unfamiliar with out of love for those who are different from us. As a church we continue to work to create a culture where we can lean into these issues honestly and openly, even amidst our many differences. To do so we continue to write articles, preach sermons, offer classes, and recommend reading. We must lean in together as we seek to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). For example:

ArticleRacism is a Radical Evil
SermonsThe Racism-Crushing GospelA Gospel Forged People in a Divided AgeGod’s New Humanity.
ClassUndividedIdentity Politics and the Death of Christian Unity
Reading: We also recommend reading Divided by Faith and its counterpart, United by Faith.

FOURTH, WE MUST BE PATIENT

It is easy to get caught-up in the emotional and politicized roller coaster of the news cycle. We want to take control. We want to do something. We want justice to prevail. We want leaders to propagate our vision for the world. We want the indifferent to wake up. We want to signal our virtue. We want this fixed now. This must not happen again. Enough, we think, and rightly so. There is much that is good, true and noble about such sentiments.

Yet, if we’re not careful, in our desire for justice, do we become unjust?

In our yearning for peace, do we create division?
In our passion to love, do we become unloving?
In our hope of righting wrongs, do we inadvertently add to them?
In our hunger for justice, are we also hungering for righteousness?
After all, only the poor in spirit, will enter the kingdom (Mt. 5:3)

We must be patient, but patience doesn’t mean passive inactivity. It means prayerful, God-centered, restraint in the face of opposition. It means being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). Why? “Because the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James. 1:20). To be patient is to love (1 Cor. 13:4). Patience allows time for more answers to arise. Patience gives space for repentance to occur (Rom. 2:4). Patience is more likely to earn us a hearing with others (Pr. 25:15). We must be patient, even as we act.

JUSTICE IS COMING

Friends, let’s continue to humbly submit ourselves to God when we see events like this unfold before us. We know that politics, blogs, and social-shaming can’t ultimately change the human heart. We know that racial utopia is not possible in this life. We’re not naive. But, neither are we paralyzed. The world is in search of answers; we know who He is. While we long for justice in a world gone mad, we know justice is coming (Rom. 12:19).

We are in this city to know Jesus and to make Him known. Let’s build meaningful relationships with others who are different from us. Let’s engage in the discussion with wisdom, tenderness, and courage. Let’s passionately share the heart-changing, all-satisfying good news of Jesus. Together, let’s be a visible, albeit imperfect, local expression of Jesus’ redeemed and reconciled (!) people to a divided world in desperate need of healing hope.

My heart is with you, my prayers are for you,
Christ is all, always.
Pastor Adam

Apr 23
2020

God Listens When You Talk To Him

Event, Prayer | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Prayer Night

God’s Surprising Emphasis on Prayer

There are 154 references to prayer (pray, prayer, praying, etc.) in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. That means, when averaged across the whole, prayer is mentioned in every other chapter. That is incredible. God is not careless in what he emphasizes. His emphases always have purposes.

Consider this small sampling of references to prayer in the NT:

Mt. 6:5,6,7 “When you pray…”
Mt. 6:9 “Pray then like this…” 
Mt. 9:38 “Pray earnestly to the Lord” 
Acts 1:14 “All these…were devoting themselves to prayer” 
Rom 12:12 “Be constant in prayer” 
1 Cor 7:5 “Devote yourselves to prayer” 
Col 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer” 
Eph. 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit…” 
1 Thess. 5:17 “Pray without ceasing”

What might God’s purposes be in giving this emphasis to prayer? I suggest it is because God wants us to know that he listens when we talk to him, like a good Father (Mt. 6:9), and acts on our behalf, for his glory and our joy.

Four Powerful Enemies of Prayer

Yet, even so, prayer remains one of the most neglected gifts God has given to his people. Why is that? While there are many reasons, let’s consider four common enemies to prayer.

First, prayer is humbling. To pray is to acknowledge that there are things (the most important things, in fact) we can’t achieve in our own power. To pray is to say, “God this is your universe, not mine. My life is ultimately in your hands, not mine” (See Acts 4:24-30). Prayers like that cause our self-sufficiency to bristle.

Second, prayer requires faith. To pray requires a genuine living trust that God not only loves us, in Jesus, but also delights to hear and answer our prayers. As Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Mt. 21:22). That kind of faith causes lingering unbelief to bristle.

Third, prayer takes patience. While God promises to answer our prayers, he typically does so on his timeline. What feels urgent to us, doesn’t always appear urgent to God (see 2 Peter 3:8). This is why Jesus encouraged us to pray and never give up (Luke 18:1-8). Yet, this reality causes our impatience to bristle.

Fourth, prayer calls for grace. This is particularly true when praying with others. When we pray with others, we quickly discover that others pray differently than we do. They use words we don’t use. They ask for things we would never ask. They talk longer than we’d prefer. Corporate prayer can cause our self-love to bristle.

So, it’s not difficult to see why we so quickly give up on prayer, right? There are mighty, though subtle, enemies warring against our prayer life, whether personal or corporate: self-sufficiency, lingering unbelief, impatience, and pernicious self-love.

How do we go to war against these enemies? By praying. We defeat the enemies of prayer, by leaning into prayer through faith in the living God who loves us and is for us (Rom. 8:28). This is why prayer is described as an irreplaceable weapon in the armory of God (Eph. 8:18).

An Invitation To Pray This Sunday

Therefore, I am writing to invite you to our next church wide Prayer Night this Sunday, April 26th, at 5:00 PM via videoconferencing. The link to the event is found in our most recent DCC News email and will be posted again in our Sunday Morning Guide and by notification through our app.

Yes, I know it is easier to pray alone. Yes, Jesus himself commends it (Mt. 6:6). Yes, it takes less time and is far more convenient to do so. Yes, you can avoid the discomfort of praying with those you don’t know.

But, there is something unique that takes place when Jesus’ people set aside time to pray to him together. It is significant to note that every spiritual awakening in the history of the church was preceded by Jesus’ people humbly, fervently, and consistently praying together. It is also important to note our church exists for the same reason.

Allow me to end, where we began: God wants us to know that he listens when we talk to him, like a good Father (Mt. 6:9), and acts on our behalf, for his glory and our joy. What might he do next?

I hope you’ll join us.

Praying with you, and for you, in Christ.
Pastor Adam