Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jul 16
2012

Summer Reading Ideas

Uncategorized | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

We all know summer in Seattle doesn’t start until July 5th, right? The last thing you want to do is look back and wonder what you did with your summer. It’s not too late. So, as an aside from all of the membership stuff we’ll be walking through for the next two months, I thought I’d make a number of reading suggestions – outside the Bible – to feed, encourage and strengthen your soul this summer. These are a number of books I’ve read recently which you’ll find helpful. There’s something here for everyone.

The Walk by Stephen Smallman
The subtitle of this book says it all, Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus. If you’re new to following Jesus or looking at re-newing your walk with him, this is a helpful, simple, practical book for just that. He takes his points directly from the Bible and is incredibly Gospel-centered. I honestly wish I had this book when I first started following Jesus. It would be ideal to process this book with another person or group.

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
Despite the title, this is a great book for singles – especially men. It is probably the best pre-pre-marriage (the extra “pre-” is intentional) book available. The first chapter has the best explanation for the modern movement of cohabitation that I’ve ever read. It is very helpful, insightful and filled with the good news of Jesus. Jen and I are just wrapping up walking through this ourselves. Highly recommend.

Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris
Admittedly, I have “membership” on the brain, so I had to include something related to our current series. What better time to grow in your own understanding of the church and how we are called by God to be related to it? Harris does a great job of making what can be a challenging subject, very practical, helpful and edifying. You’ll get a lot out of it and, likely, get convicted along the way.

Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell Moore
Moore unpacks the nature and reality of temptation by taking a close look at the tempation of Jesus in the wilderness as he began his ministry. Very well done. You wouldn’t want to make this the first book you read on temptation. For that, check out Tap: Defeating Sins that Defeat You, by Yancey Arrington.

Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey
This is a must read book for any of you men that feel the call to pastoral leadership at some point in the future. I’ve already inserted this into our eldership process. He ends on a helpful note in a chapter titled, “While you wait.” This is another book I wish was available 15 years ago. I would have benefited from it and trust you will as well.

Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard
Here’s something for DCC husbands. I was a little skeptical when I first picked this up, but discovered it to be a very helpful, biblical and practical book. Buzzard compares a religious view of marriage to a gospel view of marriage, while packing the end with a ton of practical advice on cutivating a marriage in which you continually date your wife.

All of God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes by Ken Myers
If you really want to geek out this summer – and get your mind blown along the way – read this book. It was originally published, I believe, about 20 years ago. They re-released it earlier this year and I couldn’t be more happy they did. Don’t judge a book by its title. This is easily the best book I have read in the last five years, maybe longer. The primary thrust of the book deals with the rise of pop-culture and its influence on contemporary Christianity.

Jun 2
2012

“Should I date a non-Christian?”

Uncategorized | by Pastor Adam Sinnett


Our church is predominantly single, which makes sense given that singles are the primary demographic in our context. Given the lack of godly, Jesus-loving, potential spouses, a common issue among Christian singles is, “Should I just date a non-Christian?” This has become an increasingly common issue within Downtown Cornerstone, so I thought I’d take a brief opportunity to address this practical issue and open it up for discussion. Just so you know, I’m not writing this about a single incident or individual but a general trend.

Dating

The Bible doesn’t talk about “dating” because “dating” as we know it is a fairly recent phenomena. In ancient times into the 19th century, marriages were ordinarily arranged – typically for social and financial motives. (Note: There are perks to living in 2012!)

That transitioned into courting, sometimes referred to as “calling”, that was typically done in the context of family and community, overseen by the parents.

Then, somewhere in the early 1900’s dating came onto the seen, which removed the entire process from the context of the family and made it about the individual with a new emphasis on entertainment and “just having fun” – away from the idea of marriage as the primary goal.

Today, we live in a hook-up culture where marriage is only seen as one of many potential results of dating; definitely not the primary goal and often the last. Clearly, a significant shift has taken place.

So, the first thing that must be highlighted is that all Christian dating or courting or “dorting” should have marriage as the primary goal. This doesn’t mean you can’t sit down, have a cup of coffee and a conversation. But, it does mean that both folks involved know the ultimate goal. This is counter-cultural, but it is biblical. Just think of all the emotional, psychological, and physical destruction that would be avoided if this were the rule and not the exception.

Non-Christians

Additionally, the Bible does assume that followers of Jesus will marry other followers of Jesus. For example, in 2 Cor 6 Paul says do not be “unequally yoked with unbelievers…” Similarly, in 1 Cor 7:39, Paul says, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” There are also continual warnings throughout the Old Testament to the Jewish people to not marry non-Jews (cf Numbers 12). The concern at hand is not interracial marriage, which the Bible does not prohibit, but rather inter-faith marriage. Lastly, Ephesians 5 tells us that the purpose of marriage is to point to the relationship of Jesus and the church, which is impossible to fully realize in a “mixed” marriage.

Objections

So, why would the Bible place these types of prohibitions on marriage? Is the Bible just being narrow? Are these just fundamentalistic interpretations? No. In fact, they are very practical. If you’re a follower of Jesus and your partner is not there are two inevitable results. I’ve seen both of these play out over and over again. On the one hand, if you keep Jesus central to your life, your non-believing partner will need to remain on the periphery of your life – which will inevitably lead to conflict, distance and aggravation. On the other hand, if your non-believing partner is central, then Jesus will need to move to the periphery of your life (this is far more common) – that of course, is spiritually soul-shrinking.

Often people will say, “Oh, he/she doesn’t mind that I follow Jesus…” But, what that really means is that that person doesn’t really understand the most important thing about you and about your life. If she/he doesn’t understand your faith, ultimately she/he doesn’t understand you. Often then, people will just put Jesus on the periphery to keep the peace, while elevating the more superficial aspects of the relationship (e.g. “But she loves canoeing!”)

So, don’t misunderstand. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent marriage or that you’re no longer a Christian should you be in a relationship with an unbeliever. But it does mean you can’t talk about God together, what you’re learning in the Scriptures, conviction of sin, application of the gospel of grace, pray together, have a ministry to your neighbors, raise up your kids in the faith, share the same eternal hope, etc – in other words, share the most important things in life together. God will, by necessity, get pushed out of your life. If you end up in a marriage like that, you’re stuck without a supernatural intervention by Jesus.

Last Note

In saying all that, it is important to keep in mind that you’re not just looking for someone to “pray a prayer” or “sign the dotted line” so that you can start/continue a relationship with them. I have an unbelieving friend who “became” Mormon to marry a girl and another who “became” Catholic to marry another. It is known to happen. You’re not just looking for a checkmark, you’re looking for character and a life that has been gripped by the King. You don’t want to just marry a church boy/girl – you want to marry a godly man/woman.

Don’t misunderstand me here. You’re not looking for a saint, but you are looking for someone with a hungry heart for Jesus. If that’s present, Jesus will take care of the rest. Clearly we’re all at various stages of maturity, faith, etc but what’s common in every stage is a hungry, humble heart for Jesus. Don’t look for perfection, you may have to embrace the gift of singleness for lifetime in that case, but do look for someone who you can foresee becoming your best friend, centered around the person and work of Jesus.

And, I have to add this, instead of griping about the lack of such people, focus on becoming one, and we’ll have an ample supply in short order. Amen? Amen. Yes, it requires patience. Yes, it requires prayer. Yes, it probably involves more awkward conversations with your parents, “So, when are you going to find that special someone…” So, yes its hard, but the alternative is much much much harder.

Mar 26
2012

Easter: Bring Someone!

Uncategorized | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Easter is one Sunday, even in Seattle, where it is culturally permissible for everyone and anyone to join a church for worship. With the exception of Christmas, there is no other Sunday like it. Let’s not miss this opportunity but leverage it for the spread of the gospel, the good of our city and the glory of God.

We have 235 seats in our theater at AMC. Let’s fill each one of them. Our dream is for everyone in this great city to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and have an opportunity to respond to his grace-filled, live-giving, soul-satisfying, sin-forgiving news. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people, everywhere, including Seattle:

“Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” Ps 47:1
“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” Ps 117:1
“And to [Jesus] was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him…” Dan 7:14
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” – Jesus, John 12:32
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” Acts 17:30
“[Jesus] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4
“For the grace of god has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…” Titus 2:11

This isn’t about merely drawing a crowd. Let’s not be impressed with crowds, but with Christ. Our Father has put us here to be part of His unfolding, redemptive story in this city – and the cities of the world. Let’s ask Him to do what only He can, starting with us, this season. This may be the only time many of our neighbors, family and friends will hear the gospel. Prayerfully ask Jesus who you should invite, step out in loving faith, and let’s watch Him move this Easter. Together, let’s pray for a packed house for the spread of Jesus’ fame.

Feb 10
2012

God Uses Spaces

City Life, Community, Uncategorized | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

We recently moved. Three blocks to be exact. And, well, it was a little bitter sweet. Why? Because we saw God do some amazing things in our little 2nd floor 850 sq ft apartment, and 11th floor community room, in the middle of the city. We saw Him grow an eight person launch team into a church. We saw Him answer prayers in extraordinary ways. We saw him multiply one community into six. We saw people come to know and grow in Jesus. We hosted many not-yet-believers and had countless opportunities to share the gospel. We hosted many of you. We saw relationships form, broken and reconciled – sometimes all at once! We saw many take the step of faith in committing to a church plant. We sang. We laughed – a lot.

It is probably not a surprise to you that God uses spaces. Don’t miss this. Yes, clearly, God uses people. But, he uses people in spaces: arks, prison cells, tents, deserts, whale bellies, castles, baskets, stables and more. Here’s what I want you to know, believe and live: God wants to use the spaces he has placed you in for his glory, the good of others and your joy. I want to encourage you to not see the every day spaces that you find yourself in (cars, cubicles, offices, homes, complexes, coffee shops, etc.) as neutral to the things of God. He wants to transform how you see and use the normal spaces in your life as miniature stages where his story can continue to unfold in small and big ways. He invites all of us into that.

#1 He wants to use your spaces.

It can be too easy to think that God only works through certain people, but not me, and certain places, but not mine. How would your outlook change if you viewed your every day spaces as stages within God’s story? We may not say it out loud, but we often live in a way that demonstrates our lack of faith in a God who is present, living, and working. We create a false separation between sacred and secular, when all of life is sacred. God is everywhere and everything is His, including your every day spaces. How could you redeem the use of your spaces for Him? Our previous apartment was just an apartment, but God used it as a stage for so much more. He wants to do the same with yours.

#2 Don’t underestimate what God wants to do through you.

Maybe this is because we live in Seattle or maybe it’s just the human heart, but too often we underestimate what God wants (or can) do through us. So, we wait or abdicate. We think, “I’ll do more when I’m in a better place.” We never get there, so we never do. Jesus wants you to experience the exhilaration of using your spaces for him, viewing them as stages within his redemptive story. That could mean personal transformation as you commit to trusting him and walking by the power of his grace in your every day spaces. It could also mean regularly inviting folks over for dinner or dessert, taking opportunities to pray for others as the Spirit prompts you, recognizing and meeting the needs of those around you and more. Start simple, but pray big. Don’t underestimate what God wants to do through you.

#3 Fight cynicism with anticipation.

We often celebrate cynicism, particularly in our city. But, cynicism is just unbelief that masquerades as intellectualism. It looks and sounds smart, quick and witty – but it is filled with unbelief in a God who has worked a massive redemption and delivered some massive promises to His people. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms cynicism to optimism. Optimism creates a sense of anticipation. God’s specialty is taking normal, ordinary people and doing abnormal, extraordinary things. Our lives should reflect an anticipation that God is who he says he is. Fight cynicism with gospel-birthed anticipation.

#4 Some Practical Suggestions.

By now, some of you may be asking, “But how?” Good question. First, get to know your God really, really well through daily means of grace (Bible, prayer, community, etc). The better you know Him, the more you’ll trust Him. Second, repent of unbelief and cynicism as the Spirit leads. Ask Him to fill you with a fresh sense of hope, joy and anticipation in him. Third, consider dedicating your spaces to God. Not in a weird, I’m-going-to-anoint-my-elevator-at-work sense. But, just a simple prayer over your home, cubicle or car, telling Jesus you want to use them as mini-stages within His larger story. Ask Jesus to give you eyes and ears to see the many ways He is already at work in you and others around you – ask to join Him in that work. Lastly, think through what Jesus wants to do in and through you in your daily spaces. Wouldn’t it be cool to say, “That apartment is where Jesus transformed my anger” or “I shared the gospel with 10 co-workers in that cubicle” or “I learned what prayer is in that car” or “Jesus healed my marriage in that coffee shop” or “We hosted 20 non-Christians this year for dessert at our dining room table”? Your car is not just a car. Your apartment is not just an apartment. Your cubicle is not just a cubicle. They can be stages within God’s story; God uses spaces.

Feb 6
2012

12.11.2011 Baptism Video

Community, News, Uncategorized, Video

On December 11th, 2011, we had the privilege and honor of holding our first indoor baptisms as a newly forming church in the heart of downtown Seattle.

It was an exciting morning as we saw friends and neighbors proclaim commitment to Christ and be baptized, symbolizing their new life in Him. God has not called us to plant this church in order to merely build a great church – but to build a great city, from the avenues to the alley ways. That happens as individual lives are changed by Jesus and sent into the city armed with His message and mercy. Baptism marks that change, and for that we rejoice!

Feb 2
2012

Join Jesus’ Mission: Five Practical Principles

Teaching, Uncategorized | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

On Sunday I planned to offer some practical help on how to engage others for the purposes of the gospel based on our text, Acts 8:26-40, but I ran out of time. If you missed it, you can listen to or read the sermon here. There was too much gospel gold to serve up in one sitting. What follows compliments what has already been said there.

God’s Heart

One of the reasons I love this passage is that it shows us so much about the heart of God. It shows us that God loves those who are really, really, really far from him. It shows us that God can use even the briefest, chance encounters to effect eternal change. It shows us that God is weaving a story beyond our comprehension. It shows us that he invites us in to be part of the action as conduits of his grace.

Where Do I Start?

One of the questions I often get is “Where do I start?” Many of you want to participate in God’s mission of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, but you don’t know where to begin. This passage gives us some help to do just that. What follows are five practical principles for joining Jesus’ mission, based on Acts 8:26-40.

#1) Keep it Simple. Don’t over-complicate what it means to live life with gospel-intentionality. You don’t need to carve out 10 extra hours a week. No one has 10 extra hours in their week. Rather, ask yourself, “Where is God already at work?” and then, “What would it look like for me to join him in that?” We don’t know exactly what Philip was doing when he heard the angel of the Lord tell him to head to the desert, but we do know that he was (1) in a place to hear the Lord and (2) ready to follow Him. Are you? Keep doing what you’re already doing, but with ears ready to discern where God is working and a spirit ready to obey. Keep it simple.

#2) Ask Questions and Listen. (Acts8:30,34-35) The very first thing that Philip did was ask a question, Do you understand what you are reading? That’s a good principle. It is easy to assume that we know where people are at and what they are thinking. But, often, the truth is we don’t. If we’re ready to share the gospel of grace, we must also be ready to tangibly demonstrate that same grace by patiently asking questions and listening to others – that’s just love. When the timing is right, they will eventually ask, How can I, unless someone guides me? You’ll be surprised how people will express interest in your beliefs, if you do the same for them.

#3) Use the Word of God. (Acts 8:35) We are told that, beginning with this Scripture [Philip] told him the good news about Jesus. He started with the Scriptures. When possible, we should too. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The Spirit uses His inspired word to work faith into hearts. There is no other way to say it, other than it is a supernatural work. I experienced this first hand when I became a Christian. This means it is important for every follower of Jesus to, not only have a Bible readily available, but also have some verses that you can quote from memory, such as John 3:16, 1Jn 4:10, Rom 5:8, Eph 2:8-9, Rom 6:23, John 1:12, etc.

#4) Open Your Mouth. (Acts 8:35) This almost goes without being said. Almost. We have to open our mouths. Yes, we need to pray. Yes, we need to demonstrate the grace, mercy and transforming effect of the gospel in our lives. Yes, often others need to know that we care, before they will care about what we know. But, there comes a point where we must open our mouths to communicate the life-changing, world-altering, sin-forgiving news of the gospel. Much wisdom and love is required to walk this tension.

#5) Lookout for Hungry Hearts. (Acts 8:28) If you want to share the gospel with others, look for hungry hearts around you. Who is seeking? Who is asking questions? Who seems to be interested when you talk about church, the Bible or Jesus? Who is going through a rough season of life and potentially more open to talking about deeper things? If there are people around you that this is true of, that’s from God. It’s not a guarantee they will turn to God, but it is a sign that God is stirring faith in them. Act on that. Pray for everyone, but lovingly pursue hungry hearts.

So, where will you start? Invite neighbors over for a monthly BBQ? Ask a co-worker out for lunch or coffee? Be more intentional with that one friend? Adopt a Real Change seller downtown? Pray for greater sensitivity to the Spirit’s movement? Look at everything you’re already doing, and everyone involved in what you’re already doing, and ask, How can I best live every day, ordinary with gospel intentionality? Just start and watch Him work.

Jan 17
2012

You + God + Church + 2012 = What’s Your Plan?

Uncategorized | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Every January there is a flurry of blog posts and encouragement to make a plan for your personal reading of the Bible in the new year. That’s good. But, the reality is you may already be behind or too busy to come up with a plan. I can imagine the deeply skeptical among us already saying, “Well there’s always next year.” We’re only 17 days in! It’s never too late. The reality is that we can begin any time, but the dawn of a new year is a helpful starting point.

Why should I read my Bible?

Reading your Bible isn’t about just “reading your Bible”. To read your Bible is to listen and interact with God, which is why it is so important. When you read your Bible you learn about God (“In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Ps16:11), Jesus (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” Jn1:1), His promises (“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt28:20), His Gospel (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” Jn3:16), ourselves (“you were dead in your sins and trespasses in which you once walked..” Eph2:1), get encouragement (“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…” Ps23:1), learn about sin to avoid (“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” Col3:5), experience certainty (“it seemed good to me…to write an orderly accounr for you…that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Luke1:3,4), learn of our future hope (“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…” Rev21:1) and MORE.

Is this just a form of brainwashing?

In a way, yes. Christianity says that, by nature and choice, our brains are dirty – and, thus, need to be washed with the Truth of God’s Word. The theological idea in view here is the noetic effect of sin. “Noetic” means “mind”. Sin clouds our ability to see, think and understand rightly. The Bible says we are darkened in our understanding (Eph4:18). But God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor4:6). If we want to counter the noetic effects of sin, grow in Christlikeness, experience freedom from sin and enjoy the life God has for us it is vital to get the Word in us – not just get in the Word. It revives the soul, makes wise the simple, enlightens the eyes, and endures forever. (cf Ps19:7-11)

Where do I start?

First, get a good Bible.
No, really, for personal study and devotion you need a good Bible. There are a number of things to think through, including:

  • Translation: For personal study, I recommend the ESV. The NASB, NKJV and NIV are also good options. There are three that I encourage you to avoid: Avoid the New Jerusalem Bible (Catholic) which includes some apocryphal writings, inserted after the canon was close. Also avoid the New World Bible as it is a translation created by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Lastly, avoid the NRSV which takes unfortunate liberties in the name of cultural engagement.
  • Font: Is it comfortable to read for short and long stretches of time?
  • Paper quality: The quality of the paper is important when it comes to highlighting, making notes, etc. Does everything bleed through or will it withstand the devotional onslaught of a Jesus-follower?
  • Binding: You don’t want your Bible falling apart.
  • Cover: Paperback is fine, but at some point you’ll want to upgrade to a nicer leather version because it will last longer – and smell better!
  • Cross-references, maps, etc: You’ll also want to examine the cross-referencing system. Does your Bible have one? Maps? Concordance in the back to look up terms/words?

 

Second, if you’re a new Christian and/or new to the Bible, get an ESV Study Bible.
One of the best things I did as a new Christian was to get a study bible that helped explain the text, define terms and connect the dots. If you don’t have that help, you need it or you may grow discouraged along the way. If you’re constantly trying to define terms and figure out what’s going on, you’ll likely miss what God is trying to show you. A study bible can help with that and the ESV Study Bible is the best available, no question. If you don’t have the financial resources to purchase one, please let us know and we will ensure you are provided for.

Third, find a plan.
There is nothing that will keep you away from the Bible like not having a plan. If I don’t have a plan of some kind, its hard to know where to start. ESV has provided a number of different plans here. I also put together a plan that combines two of my favorites here. A healthy first goal is to read through the entire Bible in 1-2 years. It will help give you a sense of the storyline and how it all fits together. If at any point you don’t like you’re plan, you can always change.

Fourth, set a time and place.
Whether we like it or not, we are creatures of habit. We would never miss a meeting with the President of the United States, but we do with God all the time. Much of that is due to not having a particular time and place for it to happen – and then sticking with it. Look at your calendar and identify what is the best time to be with God. Consider it a form of tithing – tithing off the first fruits of your day. For me, that’s the morning. For others, that may be the evening. Personally, my primary devotional time is in the AM, separate from any sermon prep (though clearly that is devotional in nature as well) and end the day with a word from the Psalms – filling my mind with just a bit of truth before hitting the hay.

Fifth, record what you’re learning.
Your Bible reading will be transformed if you interact with the text in writing. The goal isn’t just to get in and out as quickly as possible. The goal is to get something from it, every time you go in. Get a journal, small notebook or use your computer. Write out the verse(s) that stand out to you every day and prayerfully write out a prayer to God based on that text. The Holy Spirit made it stand out for a reason. He’s personal like that. If you know you’re looking for at least one Word for the day from the Lord, it will make your reading come to life and will give it an added dose of expectancy.

Sixth, develop a note-taking system.
This isn’t as crucial, but it can be helpful. Did you know that you can write in your Bible? I thought that was sacrilegious as a new Christian. Star. Underline. Circle. Comment. Put dates next verses that are significant markers. Put names of friends and family next to verses that you’re praying for others. Right now I use a red pen for anything, from Genesis to Revelation, that deals with Jesus. I use blue for anything related to God, his Word and his character. I use purple for God’s promises and/or anything that provides encouragement and comfort. I use brown for sin and examples to avoid – avoid brown! I use green for anything related to God’s mission – sending, calling, proclaiming, etc. It really does make the Bible come to life and you’ll see connections you never saw before. But, what matters most is that you find something that works for you.

Seventh, read your Bible in community.
In other words, share what you’re learning with others. What is God convicting you about? How is he encouraging you? How is the gospel becoming more meaningful? There is nothing more sharpening than being in relationships where this type of honest, reflective sharing is taking place. Avoid the discussions that focus on Bible trivia, while emphasizing looking for how the text points to Jesus and his work. If you’re not in one, join a Discipleship Group, where this form of community and discussion take place. Talk to your community leader for more information.

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