How our church prays together (A step-by-step guide for holding a corporate prayer gathering)

One of the things our church has done, since the very beginning, is carve out one night a month for corporate prayer and song. We call it our monthly prayer night. It's not original, but we're not trying to be original. Our goal is to come before our Father in heaven, together, to ask Him to do above and beyond all we ask, think or imagine (Eph 3:20). I've received a lot of questions about these nights from other pastors. What do they look like? How many people turn out? What happens? Why do you do them? If you have any of these questions this is for you.

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Book briefing from my summer vacation

By God's grace, and the generosity of our church, our family was able to get some extended time away last month. In addition to having longer-than-usual stretches to read the Scriptures, I had a chance to read a number of great books and revisit some others I’ve found to be helpful in the past. If you’re still looking for some summer reading recommendations, I recommend most of these. Clearly, there is a pastoral bent to this, but there’s something here for everyone... 

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How our thoughts feed (or starve) our passion for Jesus

I recently came across this great thought by Jonathan Edwards. I am deeply thankful, and indebted, to how Edwards vigorously refused to separate the intellect from the affections. Too often we separate them, rather than recognizing how the one informs the other. What do accurate ideas about who Jesus is, what he has done and who we are in him have to do with our loving of him and enjoying his goodness? Everything. Our thoughts feed (or starve) our passion for Jesus. Right thoughts, carried by the Spirit, throw gasoline on the fire of our affections, while wrong thoughts douse them. In other words, our theology (understanding of God is, what He is like, what He has done) is the fountainhead and source of our affection for him. Here's how Edwards puts it.

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John Bunyan on what dazzles the eyes of angels

It's hard not to like John Bunyan (1628-1688). Of all the Puritans, he's among my favorite. His Pilgrim's Progress, written during his imprisonment for preaching the gospel, is one of the most beloved and translated books of all time. (I highly recommend A Dangerous Journey, an adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress for kids.) John Owen, when asked by Charles II why he went to hear the uneducated Bunyan preach, famously said, "May it please your majesty, could I possess the tinker's abilities for preaching, I would willingly relinquish all my learning." He had an incredible gift for preaching to the heart. In my study for this weekend, I came across these gospel-laden treasures.

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Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection | A Brief Review

Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson have written an incredibly helpful, culturally accessible and doctrinally sound book in Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the ResurrectionThe premise of the book is simple, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1Cor15:17) If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then everything else he said or did is of little importance. However, if he did rise, that changes everything about everything. That makes the resurrection of Jesus perhaps the best place to start for those examining his life and claims - and that is where Raised? comes in. 

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Our church celebrates three years of life on Jesus' mission

Yesterday our church (Downtown Cornerstone) celebrated three years of life together following Jesus in our great city. From the beginning our hope and prayer was to see lives changed through the gospel, souls saved and reconciled to God, and the city served. That's happening. It takes a lot of different kinds of churches to reach a lot of different kinds of people with the same gospel, in any given context. We couldn't be more thankful to be a small part of what He is doing in our city. Some talented folks put together the simple, family reunion style, video below to capture just a bit of the diversity of our family-on-mission and the diversity of ways Jesus is moving among us. Thanks for sharing in our joy. 

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11 compelling evidences that every follower of Jesus should be passionately committed to a specific local church

Until setting out to plant Downtown Cornerstone a few years ago, I had done little investigation into the biblical rationale behind church membership - or, more simply, being passionately committed to a specific, local, loving community of Jesus-followers. Though I had previously belonged to a church that practiced membership, I had a very cursory understanding of its biblical depth. I find this is very common. When it comes to the Christian life, the local church’s importance is often overlooked, minimized or misunderstood. Have you ever stopped to ask, “What is the local church? What is God’s purpose for the local church? What is church membership all about? Is that some sort of legalism or authoritarian power-grab? Is it biblically essential or merely optional? Is membership a matter of obedience to Jesus Christ or a matter of personal preference?” Over the years, through my own study and that of others, I have compiled the following list of 11 compelling evidences that every follower of Jesus should be passionately committed to a specific local church. I hope they serve to biblically root and stoke your affections for Jesus' local church as they have mine. 

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Five books that every new, or renewed, follower of Jesus should read

Recently, I took up the challenge of considering the top five books that I would recommend for new, and renewed, followers of Jesus. If you’ve recently begun to follow Jesus, or are coming back to him, where do you start? What are the best books to get you “up-and-running” and heading in a solid, well-rounded direction? Here are my suggestions.  

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Eight encouragements to single men

This is for single men. However, I'm throwing it out to everyone because I want single ladies, in particular, to know what you are called up to. I’ve been married for twelve years, but I too was single at one point. I, for one, know the pro’s and con’s of singleness intimately. I made my share of honest mistakes and outright stupid moves. I also, by the sheer grace of God, made some good, godly, wise decisions that I am thankful for to this day. I know that the season of singleness, like marriage, comes with its own unique set of fears, temptations and idolatry. So, I want to help. If you're interested I addressed this topic about a year ago in our church's study through Proverbs in a sermon called, Understanding Singleness.

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Prayers answered by crosses by John Newton

On Sunday, January 26th, I preached a sermon on Mark 4:35-41 (“The Lord of the Storm”) and discussed, in part, the role of life’s storms as instruments in the hands of God. During my preparation I came across the poem below by John Newton (most famously known for writing Amazing Grace) called Prayers Answered by Crosses. What he calls “crosses” we'd also call storms, suffering or difficulty. If you’re currently in the middle of a storm or you’re praying to know God more deeply, you should read this and take heart. In God’s hands, no storm is in vain.

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