“ Tim Keller quote from Center Church
“We cannot properly grasp the Savior’s redemptive mission, unless we understand what he came to save us from. If you dilute lostness, then you dilute the seeking and the saving. If we have a reduced understanding of our sinful condition, then we also have a reduced Savior.”
Listen to my sermon The Crux of Calvary where I expand upon this.
In his book Transforming Power, Robert Linthicum discusses Jeremiah 29 about the Israelites time in exile. He says, “Note where we are to seek shalom. It is not in Jerusalem – the “city of God.” It is in Babylon – the “city of Satan.” Linthicum’s interpretation of Jeremiah provides a prophetic word for much of the church in America that has largely fled from urban poverty and injustice. He continues his interpretation of Jeremiah 29 saying,
“Don’t isolate yourself from the rest of the Babylonian community and create a Jewish ghetto. Enter fully into the life of that city. Get a job and enter into its economy. Buy a house or rent an apartment. Become Yahweh-lovers who love the city’s people and corporate life. Weep with those who weep. Laugh with those who laugh. And by so doing, become God’s presence in the society to which I have called you.”
This morning Gordon Cosby, founder of Church of the Savior, passed away in his sleep at 95 years old.
Gordon and his wife Mary started Church of the Savior around 1950 here in DC. They never had more than 120 members but together they’ve been able to start over 70 ministries and nonprofits over the years. Samaritan Inns, Christ House, and Mary’s Center are a few examples.
What is interesting is the way these ministries started. It was almost always in small groups. Many of these small groups formed as a result of Gordon’s preaching and commitment to discipleship. When one person was called, they couldn’t act on that call until at least one other person felt that calling and they formed a small group.
So when Dr. Janelle Goetcheus felt the call to serve the homeless with health care she couldn’t act on it until someone else had that calling. So they started a small group. That turned into Columbia Road Health Services, that expanded into Christ House, that expanded into Joseph’s House, that expanded into Kairos House.
Today Janelle runs Unity Health Care in DC that served over 90,000 low-income patients in DC in one year alone!
Margaret Mead once said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Gordon Cosby passed away in the place he has lived for the last few decades. Christ House, a ministry he helped to start to care for homeless men who are coming off the streets.
I’ve admired Gordon from afar for most of my life but over the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with him several times and be mentored. His humility, commitment to Christ, commitment to the poor, and devotion to prayer are contagious.
The last time Gordon and I spoke we mostly talked about prayer. Most people know about Church of the Savior because of their social ministries, but anyone who spends time with Gordon knows that the secret to his success lies in his commitment to prayer.
When I asked Gordon to share with me how prayer has been foundation for him all these years, he said the following:
“The inward and the outward go together. Lots of people are talking about the inward journey, but not talking about Jesus Christ. It’s not just a general inward emphasis. It needs to be focused on Christ. The inward journey is a relationship with Jesus. Surrendering to God in the person of Christ.”
He went on to say, “A lot of people who are talking to this emerging and new age stuff are not coming to Jesus. This is a radical gospel. Jesus must be central.”
He said over the years people have been very interested in the outward ministries of Church of the Savior but have become impatient with the inward journey. People act like, “We’ve seen what we want to see,” and then they quickly want to move on to what is next. But Cosby says, “We have to encounter the Spirit from which the outward comes.”
When I asked Gordon to share about where his conviction came from to start the church, he always took me back to WWII where he was a chaplain in the army. He said he had buried more people than anyone he has ever known. He remembered before going into one battle the commanding officer pulling them all together and saying that tomorrow they would lose half of their men.
He was there in the midst of hundreds of thousands of people dying at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. I’ll never forget what Gordon said as he summarized his story to me, “I saw them as they looked death in the face…and I had not prepared them at all.”
This is what led him Gordon to move to Washington, DC and identify with the suffering of this city. And to be radical in that commitment.
Gordon is someone who always challenged me and others to keep Christ at the center. To not be so fascinated with building the Kingdom, that I forget about the formation that must happen inside of myself.
I’m so grateful for his example to me. I have always felt like if I could accomplish 1/10 of what he did for this city I would die a content man.
You will be missed Gordon, but please know that your work and this message of Christ will continue to spread in this city and beyond.
My friend Richard Twiss passed away today of a heart attack. This came very sudden and as a shock to all of us.
Richard was in town this week for the National Prayer Breakfast and we were actually going to have him speak last Sunday at our church but it didn’t work schedule wise.
I have so many great memories of Richard. His humor and his love of God was something that we all appreciated so much. Richard and I roomed together a couple times at speaker retreats and conferences. The late night conversations with him were always so thoughtful and encouraging to my faith. He would always end our conversations in prayer, staying rooted in the love of God.
Richard was a true bridge builder between the evangelical church and the Native American community. He was never afraid to speak the truth in love. His prophetic voice will be a huge loss for the church.
I am comforted knowing that Richard is with his Creator who he followed so deeply. Please keep his wife Katherine and the rest of their family in your prayers.
Below is a statement they released this afternoon:
The Passing of Richard Leo Twiss, Taoyate Obnajin “He Stands with his People”
As of Saturday, February 9, 2013 Richard Leo Twiss, Lakota, co-founder and President of Wiconi International, passed into the eternal kingdom of the Creator as he took up the journey of life on the other side, to be with the Lord whom he loved and served so diligently on this side of life.
Richard walked the good road with Jesus from 1974, and continues his walk now on the other side of life.
In the final hours of Richard’s journey on this side, he was surrounded by his wife Katherine, his four sons, Andrew, Phillip, Ian and Daniel, along with close friends who sang, prayed, laughed and reminisced together about his impact in life among them, and within the wider kingdom of his Creator.
A fuller description of the impact and ministry of our brother, Richard Twiss, will be posted at a later date.
I’m excited about the Missio Alliance gathering happening in the DC area this April 11-13. It’s an incredibly diverse lineup of evangelical speakers who are committed to both Jesus and justice.
Amy and I along with @justinfung will be doing a few workshops. I’ll be doing one on faith & politics with David Fitch (@fitchest) and another on urban church planting with Kevin Haah from New City Church LA and Felipe Assis (@felipebassis) of Crossbridge Miami.
Here is a quick summary. I hope you can make it. You can register for Missio Alliance here.
Faith and Politics: Should the Christian/Church pursue God’s justice through the State? How do we lead churches in a nation divided by politics?
This seminar asks the serious questions of how we lead our churches for God’s justice in relation to national and local politics. We ask whether national politics can be a partner in God’s justice? If so, how do we discern it? Can it be a distraction? Is there a prioritization participation in local issues of justice over nation-wide political engagement? Is there ever a time to withdraw entirely from the nation state politics for the sake of the Kingdom? The presenters will offer divergent perspectives and draw upon these for broader dialogue.
Planting Urban Churches: Embodying a Theological Vision for Mission in Cities
Cities in North America are not only ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse, they are also spiritually diverse and pluralistic. How can the gospel be contextualized in places of so much diversity? What does it look like to plant urban churches that truly exist for the sake of the city? To lead people to faith in Jesus and mobilize them for the work of justice? To develop worshiping communities that help heal and restore long-time racial and socioeconomic barriers? Hear the stories of three pastors who have planted urban churches in Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, DC. They will share their theological vision for urban mission and stories of how this vision is contextually embodied in the life and ministry of their churches.
“Where else would you find in so few pages such a varied series of exciting events —- trials, riots, persecutions, escapes, martyrdom, voyages, shipwrecks, rescues — set in that amazing panorama of the ancient world —-Jerusalem, Antioch, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, Rome? And with such scenery and backdrops — temples, courts, prisons, deserts, ships, seas, barracks, theaters?“ - E.J. Goodspeed
I’m loving our journey through the Book of Acts! It reads like an adventure novel with all its twists and turns.
Then I’ll pick it up in Acts 17 on Feb. 10th. So excited.
Years back I heard a story about a guy who traveled to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa for the summer. When the summer was over he went to Mother and asked her to pray for him. She said certainly, “What can I pray for you about?” He said, “Pray that God would give me clarity about what I’m supposed to do next in life.”
She responded by saying, “Oh I’m so sorry. I don’t pray for clarity. There have been very few times I’ve ever had clarity…But I will pray for peace. That is something that God has continued to give me in the midst of all my doubts and challenges.”
That story has always stuck with me for over the years. Here is one of the leading servants in the history of the church, who started this movement across the world called Missionaries of Charity in 133 countries that care with such purpose for the orphan, the leper, and the widow. I’ve always thought, if Mother Teresa lacked clarity, I guess it’s OK if I do too!
I think sometimes God withholds revealing the plans He has for us because he knows that if we downloaded the details we would be tempted to not trust Him.
God knows how competent and driven you are. He knows it because He made you! He knows you will be tempted to quickly go into execution mode and be tempted to forget the relationship along the way. And this is why He created you – for relationship.
Is there an area of your life where you are in discernment mode right now? Take a moment to stop and just say to God:
I trust you…Now help me to fully trust you (name area of your life where you struggling)…Give me a deep peace within that can only come from you…
Was just reflecting today upon an old devotional favorite from back in my college days. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. He talks about “seven realities” upon which experiencing God is based. I still refer back to them all the time in discerning God’s will for my own life and when I pray for and counsel others. Here they are:
1. God is always at work around you.
2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
(Photo: Mimi In)
In most farming communities throughout the world, farmers build fences around their property to keep their animals in, and livestock from the neighboring farms out.
(photo: Brandon Hook)
But in many rural communities where farms or ranches cover an enormous geographic area, fencing the property is out of question.
(photo: Brandon Hook)
For instance in Australia, the farms or ranches are so vast that building fences makes no sense.
So what farmers do instead is dig a hole and create a well. Very much like a watering hole, that becomes a precious water supply for the animals.
It is assumed that livestock will never roam too far from the well or they will die. As long as there is a clean supply of water, the livestock remain close by.
The question is this: are you building fences or wells?
It’s the difference between being ‘bounded’ or being ‘centered.’
Bounded means a set of people clearly marked off from those who do not belong to it.
Centered is defined by its core values, and people are not seen as in or out, but as closer or further away from the center.
The law was designed to keep some people in and some people out. But when Jesus came he brought grace. He brought truth. He welcomed everyone to come eat at the Great Banquet. In fact, he said go out on the highways and byways and compel them to come in!
This is the gift that Jesus wants to offer you. The reason he came to this earth to bring this message, the reason he endured a gruesome death on the cross, the reason he rose three days later, the reason he empowered his followers with the Spirit to share the message to the ends of the earth is simply this:
Jesus wants to offer you living water. He wants you to drink from a well that will never run dry. From a well that will never cause you to thirst again. That will lead to eternal life.
There are a lot of people building fences in our world today. Showing favoritism. Looking down on others. Thinking they are morally superior.
But I want to be known as a church that digs wells. I want us to be a place where anyone who is thirsty can come and drink. A place where we can experience the power of the living God.
10. Receiving the gift of the Leadership Resident House on Fairmont Street!
9. Having over 50 people gather for our Leadership Community Retreat.
8. Talking about engaging our faith in arts, business, government, family, media, schools, and the church during our Mustard Seed Series.
7. Creating partnership with Park View Kids Zone with Angela joining us as a Leadership Resident.
6. Experiencing growth in our small groups with many new leaders and groups starting.
5. Our Gamechanger Series where we saw God move as we committed to giving God the first fruits of our time and income.
4. Welcoming over 200 people into our home during our 16 Newcomers Dinners.
2. Raising $40,000 in one week during our Advent Offering to provide scholarships for youth in DC, hope for families in Kibera slum, and medical supplies and surgery for kids with disabilities in Kenya.
1. Jordan leading congregation in singing We Found Love in a Hopeless Place.
TDC, thanks for giving me the privilege of serving as your pastor. I look forward to many more memories in 2013. To God be the glory!