Sowing Seeds

My mind is fixed on a question facing my Lighthouse family.  It’s a tough question.  For some months now we have been shuttling men and women  from Centre to Celebrate Recovery (CR) and Sunday morning worship.  Centre is a transitional housing unit between jail or prison and our community.  It is incarceration with a growing freedom to get life back on track.  On Thursday evenings we could have as many as 30-40 people.  On Sundays 20-30.  In many ways our new friends have brought change to the Lighthouse family.

Some of our new friends see Lighthouse as an opportunity to grow spiritually and to find a “life community” of support, acceptance and fellowship.  For others, it’s a night or morning out of Centre.  Some participate fully.  Many are in and out, up and down; and frankly a little distracting to others.  There are those who hang on the fringe.  They stay just outside of the sanctuary.  It’s all foreign to them.  A little awkward.  Uncomfortable.

I meet some who have never been to church before.  For many they have, but long ago.  Sometimes their last experiences in church were not so good.  Often, I suspect, the “light” is unfamiliar and a little blinding when you have been traveling in “darkness” for a while.  I can tell they aren’t used to being welcomed.  No judgement is weird to those who have stood before judges and jailers.  I’ve wondered how Jesus would engage and interact at the Lighthouse on Thursday night or Sunday morning?  Would He sit in the sanctuary or be on a couch in the entryway?  Would he sit to respectfully  hear the end of my message or get up with others when they sneak out early for a smoke?

It’s a tough thing.  Part of getting life back on track is learning things like respect, manners and proper behavior in a community of others.  Part of ministering in the trenches and on the front lines of the mission field is to learn to be uncomfortable and to take the time to come alongside others and teach them.  I always tell people, if you’re not comfortable with “messy,” Lighthouse may not be the place for you.

I’ve begun to think about Jesus’ parable of the sower in different ways.  You remember.  “A farmer went out to plant some seed.”  (Mark 4:3 and following).  Some fell on a path, some on shallow soil and rocks, some amongst thorns and finally some on good soil.  Sowing seed itself, I have come to understand, can be messy.  Jesus says, “keep sowing!  Just keep sowing!!!  I will take care of the rest.”

It takes a special people and a special community to sow in the darkness and the messes of life.  I think the Lighthouse, this faith community experiment I started and I love is such a place.

If you are from Centre and are reading this, thank you for stretching and challenging us.  Be patient with us. There are few roadmaps for this territory.  We are moving forward by faith.

If the Lighthouse is your family, thank you for stretching and striving to love people like Jesus did.  It gives me a sense of awe and wonder for His amazing grace.  “God, how did You ever put up with me in my darkness and in my messes of life?”

So the sower?  (I love that sentence!)  So the sower, he just keeps sowing seed.  God makes it grow.  That’s His business.  The hope and the promise?  If you keep sowing, some will grow and “produce a crop thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted.”  Wow.  “Then Jesus said, ‘Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.'”  (Mark 4:9 NLT).

See you at the Lighthouse,

Dale

 

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Earthly Politics and the King

So it comes to an end.  In a few short hours, if we are lucky, this year’s election will be over.  None too soon for me.  Not that I don’t get a kick out of it.  I’ve seen House of Cards.  This would have been even more entertaining if it wasn’t real life.

I’ve watched the news these last months more than I would like to admit.  I’m a political junky.  I tell myself to turn away.  Don’t watch!  It doesn’t work.  It’s like driving by a car wreck and telling yourself not to look.  I can’t help it.

I do not take public positions on political issues or candidates, though I will at times speak on what are moral issues.  My voice on who to vote for isn’t helpful and rarely furthers the gospel, to which I have devoted my life to sharing.  Frankly, God gave you reason, common sense, and the ability to think for yourself.  He has placed in your hands His word.  Let your faith and prayer guide you.  I trust you can make your own judgement.

What we forget as followers of Jesus is no matter who is elected president, we have a King who is in charge!  We should care deeply about our country and who is leading it.  Whoever wins, we should pray for him or her.   Paul himself wrote, “all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” Romans 13:1 NLT.  But even if this election ushers in the end times (which I suspect it will not), we can be assured of who is ultimately in charge.  God is God.  He’s got this.  He’s got our back.  And if it is His judgement that the direction of our country should not be what I want or you want…well, I suspect He knows best.  I know He has listened to and heard my prayers.  But the last I’ve checked my cel phone and email, He still has not asked for my advice.  What He does ask is that I strive today to love Him and love others.  To do so is to engage in the earthly politics, no matter how unseemly.  And, though I’m in this world, to remember that the one we worship is the King.  The King of kings (and presidents) and the Lord of lords.

All this said, let’s pray for our country and world tonight.  Things are unsettled. Then, let’s get up tomorrow morning and work to make it a little bit of a better place.

See you at the Lighthouse,

Dale

 

 

 

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Transparency

If you attend the Lighthouse you know that we are amazingly transparent about the fact that we all have struggles in life.  So you will hear phrases like, “we are all in recovery for something.”  “Everyone makes mistakes.” “Your identity is not your past or the sum of your mistakes!”

I have been pondering this reality of transparency lately as I go through my interactions with people.  I spend a lot of time with people.  Usually it is in the midst of their struggles.  At Lighthouse we specialize in this!  I have come to realize that people are often open with me in ways that surprise me.  Why?  I could speculate.  I’m a pretty good listener.  I generally like people.  That helps.  But I have concluded that the primary reason is my own transparency.

Now that is a very interesting thing because most pastors are not honest about their issues.  We are taught not to be.  If people knew that we are human and struggle like they do, would they respect us?  Listen to us?

The church today struggles with this notion that to be a follower of Jesus and go to church we have to have life all put together.  Every aspect of our lives are transformed, so we suggest, which means we no longer struggle.  Recently in an interview I called our churches “cocoons of righteousness.”  One might say self-righteousness, because it’s a lie.

Authenticity, empathy, compassion…they all follow transparency.  I tell pastors that if you want to understand what we are doing and learn how to reach those who are struggling with life, come and see.  The Lighthouse is a special but messy, very messy place.  People are welcomed to share their stuff when appropriate and offered hope that life can and will be better.  Jesus does offer a transformed life.  He relishes redeeming our struggles.  In recovery language that many will understand, it is sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.  Usually slowly.

Yet that is where God is at His best.  The message of the incarnation and the cross is that instead of simply removing our issues and struggles, God has joined with us in them.  He walks us through them, and in that journey brings new life.  So, if you are a pastor, I challenge you to stretch a little.  Maybe share a little of your own stuff and how God is working in it.  Be a little more transparent.  And if you are a church goer, don’t buy into the lie.  Sin and pain still crouches at the door.  Admit it, and you will see God use your struggles in redeeming ways as He also  begins to bring you healing through your confession.

I will never forget the young lady I met at the Lighthouse one evening at Narcotics anonymous.  I asked her story.  She shared a little.  I said I understand and share a bit of my own struggles with my addiction to alcohol.  “Wait,” she said.  “You mean you are one of us?”  “Yes,” I said.  I’m one of you.”  Aren’t we all?

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Isolation

If you’ve hung around the Lighthouse for a period of time you have heard me remind you, “Isolation is your enemy!” Its true for pretty much everybody, not just people in recovery. In Genesis 2, after creating Adam, God says, “Its not good for man to be alone.” Now that doesn’t mean that we should avoid alone time. Time alone can be a time of growth, rest, meditation, etc… But generally, we have been created to be in relationship.

I’m at my office at Caribou Coffee as I write these words. Somehow I work better when there are people around. As I sit here, I am looking at a table of 12, no 13 women having coffee and conversation. They are loud! 🙂 But that’s okay. I’ve learned to work in such an environment.

And then there are the regular interruptions. One friend just stopped by to tell me he has been reading in John 18. He thinks I need to look at it. He also suggests I look at it in the King James. “Thanks,” I said.

Now you might think I’m crazy to spend my days like this. Let me tell you what I believe is crazy. Pastors shutting themselves up in an office away from the world and humans going through life. Any follower of Jesus, for that matter. I learn a lot from my conversations at Caribou. I have new friends and my life is more rich because of it.

Here’s the deal! God works through community and groups and interaction with other people. I see God’s face and grace on daily a basis. I even pray that someone may see it now and then in me.

I was at a meeting yesterday of people who work in recovery. I was asked to describe the Lighthouse. I said, “the Lighthouse is a life community centered around faith in Jesus Christ.” Its an amazing community. Daily I see God working through the love, acceptance and encouragement of one another. God indeed works through community. Its core to who we are as a people who are following Jesus and loving people as Jesus did.

Well, time to fill my cup. Its starting to thin out around here. The table of 13 is now 3. Still loud though. I think I’ll take a look at John 18. I hope you have a blessed day…and remember, “Isolation is your enemy!”

See you at the Lighthouse,

Dale

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The Big Game

Okay, before you send me nasty messages you should know that I am a huge college football fan. Go Blue!!! (Michigan)

I live in a community where all the talk for the last week has been about the big game. NDSU vs UND. I won’t go into the “bigness” of this game or its history. Most of you already know, and the rest of you don’t care. Hey, I care! I’ll be watching.

What I’m wondering today as the game fast approaches is why don’t those of us who follow Jesus get just as excited about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? Why doesn’t the transforming power of God get us talking like this? Why don’t people flock to our churches like they do to the Saturday games? Why can we spend so much money on a game but find it so difficult to offer it to God in the offering plate? Why is it easy to spend a whole day devoted to a football game but we complain when church goes over 10 minutes?

Now, don’t call me a spoiled sport. Let me take some responsibility. Perhaps we in the church haven’t always shared the good news of what God has done in Christ Jesus in such a way as it moved people’s hearts. Maybe our churches tend to bore people more than excite them about what God is doing. I wonder if we haven’t communicated in such a way so as the cause of Christ is one that people feel challenged to give their lives to.

Okay, now I will hear from all my pastor and church friends 🙂

As I reflect during the pregame show, I wonder what would happen if we, churches and Christ followers met halfway tomorrow. What if we who lead worship and share the gospel brought the very power and love of God to our people in a clear and compelling way with a bit of the “big game’s” energy? And what if our “church people” brought a touch of the energy of today’s game, threw at least the same in the plate as was spent today, and then this week demonstrated the same passion in following Jesus as we did in the big game? Frankly, tomorrow could be a cool Sunday!

So, my thoughts for what they are worth. I know, its easy to ask questions. I’ll work on a few answers too. I will also do my best to bring a bit more tomorrow. But first the game. I’m not going to tell you who I’m cheering for, but I will tell you what color I’m wearing. God Blue!!!

And finally, for those of you who don’t get the church thing but who are still reading this. Join us tomorrow at the Lighthouse. No judgement, just a lot of love for Jesus and for one another.

See you at the Lighthouse,

Dale

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I’ll Give You What I Have

My latest blog post:

I read the following passage from Acts 3 in my morning devotions today.

“Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.

4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. 6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!'” NLT

I love Peter’s reply to the man, “I’ll give you what I have.” Of course it is hard to give what we don’t have. But most of us who follow Jesus aren’t willing to give what God has placed inside of us through the power of His Holy Spirit. We don’t trust God enough to step out in faith. We are not self-aware enough to see the very power of God living in us.

God doesn’t expect you to give what you do not have. But God does call you and me to trust Him with what He has given. What do you have?

1. Your experience. God will use what you have been through for His kingdom purpose. Be self-aware of what you have been through and how it might serve others. God will bring opportunities for you to share with others. Just look at Peter. He had seen and experienced the healing power of Jesus and He trusted God to work through him in faith.

2. Your story of dependence upon God’s grace and forgiveness. Everyone is broken. We all have a story. We all are on a spiritual search. God’s grace and love changes hearts. Too often we followers of Jesus are perceived to be judgmental or above others. Its time we be more transparent and let others know that we are where we are because of God’s grace. We hurt and struggle just like everyone else.

3. The power of the Holy Spirit in you. Your presence with those in need brings the very presence of God. Your prayers are filled with power and healing. God can and will speak through your words when spoken in faith and trust in Him.

In our culture its easy to give a few bucks. Now sometimes that may be the appropriate gift. It may be one of the ways God has blessed you to be a blessing to others. But I challenge you as you go through your day today to be more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Ask, what do I have to give? Pray for the courage to say in faith, “I’ll give you what I have.” You just may see the power of God at work in unexpected and profound ways.

See you at the Lighthouse,

Dale

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Why go to church?

I’m writing to those of you who don’t go to church. I was visiting today with someone who confessed his journey is such that the first step back to church is extremely hard. I know his story and I understand. I visited with another person who said I feel judged when I attend church. It breaks my heart. Often Christ followers have become more like the Pharisees in the Bible than they have like Jesus. Jesus loved and accepted all people, unconditionally. That said, our struggles and experiences shape who we are today. When you have never gone, or when you have been away, it can be hard to come to church. So why go to church? There are many reasons. Let me share three.

1. The church is God’s gift to those who are spiritually searching as well as for those who are Christ followers. In church God can reveal Himself and we can learn and grow in our faith. Apart from church our faith begins to take on the teachings of the world. Church re-centers us. Find a church that teaches the Bible because it is the primary way God speaks to us.

2. The church is God’s gift to us as He knows we need each other. I’m going to talk about that tomorrow morning. We have been created for community. We draw encouragement for the journey from each other. We learn from others. We cannot do life on our own. We need each other. Find a church that accepts you for who you are. Then be open to the reality that God may begin to change who you are!

3. Finally, the church is God’s gift to us because God knows we are better people when, we find recovery when, we grow the most when…we serve. The church is a place to give of ourselves, our possessions and our spiritual gifts. Generosity is at the heart of who God is….for God so loved the world that He GAVE His one and only Son. Generosity is at the heart of what it means to be created in God’s image. Find a church not only where your needs will be met, but where you can serve God and others.

If you don’t have a church I invite you to the Lighthouse. We are not perfect. Far from it. I know this for certain because no perfect people are allowed at the Lighthouse. But what I do know is that we are doing our best as broken but passionate followers of Jesus to do what I have shared above.

Worship tomorrow, 10:30 am. 21 9th St S in downtown Fargo.

See you at the Lighthouse,

Dale

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