March 26, 2011

Psalm 116

We were asked the other day at our Support Team Building Boot Camp what Scripture we could go to when times got tough in the process of raising the support needed to get to France.  Of course, we are just a few weeks into this process, but those times haven't hit, because we've been blessed by people responding to the need to bring the Light to the darkness through prayer and financial support. 

When times of discouragement come, I know that I have always found great refuge in the Psalms. I remember the time that we recorded a worship CD at Wakarusa Missionary Church a few years ago.  As part of that evening of recording, I read the precious words of Psalm 116, from the Message, that has for many years given expression to my gratefulness to Him for miraculously rescuing me out of the pit of depression many years ago, and the promise I've made to Him to pursue His heart and mission for me above my own misguided meanderings.

I suppose there's much more to write someday about that, but for now I'll just leave you with the link of the reading on that recording.

What can I give back to God
      for the blessings He's poured out on me?
   I'll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
      I'll pray in the name of God;
   I'll complete what I promised God I'd do,
      and I'll do it together with His people. 

March 23, 2011

Blessing the Nations

I think that the Dahlgren kids are ready for our Perspectives class to come to an end soon.  Most evenings over the past 11 weeks when our kids have asked, “What’s happening tonight?”, they have heard us say, “We’re studying for our class.”  The class began as one of the steps we needed to do to be best prepared for serving with ReachGlobal in France, but we both now consider it as one of the most perspective-changing, Bible-challenging processes we’ve ever encountered.  Through hours of reading and plenty of assignments, we have learned so much about God’s complete plan for our lives as Christ-followers.  All of the Bible studies and classes we’ve attended somehow have not impacted us in the same way as this ‘movement’.  How is it that we’ve never understood His call for our lives like this before?

This week’s readings were some of the best so far.  Rick Love, the author of “Identity With Integrity:  Apostolic Ministry in the 21st Century”, shares the following passage:

Modern apostles increasingly avoid the use of once-cherished terms like “Christian,” “missions,” “missionary,” and “church planting.”  Negative meanings have accrued to these terms and as a result, in our attempts to bring blessing to the nations, we are too easily misunderstood.  In our zeal to fulfill the Great Commission, we have often misrepresented the way of the cross.  We have depersonalized the ministry of reconciliation.  We have failed to model the peaceable way of Jesus.

I think the scriptural theme of “blessing the nations” could be the best way to describe our core apostolic mandate.  We may find that this phrase, or something like it, could replace the term “missions.”

The mandate to bless the nations began with Abraham.  God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) provides the biblical foundation and the proper heart attitude for ministry.  Here we find God’s loving purpose to bless all nations.  Here we see God’s global purposes for humanity.

In the Old Testament, “blessing” refers to God’s gracious favor and power bestowed on those who respond to him by faith (Gen 15:6; Ps 67).  The blessing of His favor draws us into relationship with himself, resulting in peace, well-being and salvation.  The blessing of his power affects the practical realities of every dimension of life.  Thus, blessing is both a relational term and a power term.

This promised blessing finds its fulfillment in Christ.  In Christ, we find the fullness of God’s loving favor.  In Christ, we discover the demonstration of God’s liberating power.  Paul highlights the relational and powerful dimensions of blessing in Christ most explicitly in Galatians (Gal 3:5,8,9,14).

Implicit in the Abrahamic blessing, I think we find our mandate as well as our message.  Paul makes this clear in Galatians 3:8, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’“  Thus, our core message of the blessing which is in Christ aligns with our core mandate to bring Christ’s blessing to all nations.

Another powerful paragraph in Rick’s article reads:

One of the greatest ways to discern the core message of your life is to answer this question:  What message am I willing to die for?  In my case, I would rather not die for being affiliated with a mission agency or for my country’s foreign policy.  Frankly, I am not willing to die for the religion of Christianity.  But by the grace of God, I would be willing to die for Christ and for the right of everyone to know of Christ’s love.

What a great summation of the basics of God’s ultimate call for each of our lives!  
·         We are to bless all nations. 
·         Are we willing to die for Christ? 
·         Do we really believe everyone has a right to know of Christ’s love? 
·         Who will go?

Here we are… send us!

March 14, 2011

Building Our Support Team

Thursday and Friday of this week we will be joining others in Carmel, Indiana, in an intensive two-day Support Team Building “boot camp”.  The seminar is focused on helping Christian workers get to their ministry assignments quickly and fully funded.  Besides hours spent each week on our Perspectives homework, we have been diligently spending additional hours (lots of them) reading the support team building materials, doing their Bible studies, completing lots of homework and praying for God’s hand in our support team building efforts.  We have also begun sending out our initial letter, prayer card and commitment card to a number of friends and family.  We still have a lot more to send out. 

It’s amazing how everything just takes a lot of time.  Everyone joked during our application/orientation week in Minnesota last month that this next phase, support team building, would be an additional full-time job on top of our already full-time jobs.  Inside we knew there would be lots of extra work to be done, but it was easy to think that “full-time” really didn’t mean “FULL-TIME”.  Now we know better.  It really does mean “FULL-TIME”!

We would truly appreciate your prayers on our behalf specifically for:
·         Thursday & Friday (3/17 & 3/18) – Support Team Building “Boot Camp” – that we would absorb all that we need to know to be most effective at raising up our support team.
·         Our time to be managed efficiently & effectively – balance between our jobs, time for our family & each other, and time to fit in all that’s necessary prior to heading to France.
·         Our support team building efforts – that we would be faithful in sharing our story, that God would work in hearts, and that our financial support team AND prayer support team would be built.
·         Our family as we visit Lyon, April 7-18 – meet the Lyon City Team, visit the ICCL (church), scout out potential schools for the kids, and experience French culture & life in Lyon – pray that God would confirm in our hearts, our kids’ hearts and the Lyon City Team’s hearts the call to serve in Lyon.
·         The sale of our house – it’s been on the market now for one year.  Pray that it will sell soon so this burden can be released and we can begin preparing for our move to France.

“That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks.”  Ephesians 1:15-16 (The Message)

Thank you for all the wonderful words of kindness and support that we’ve received already in this process!  We truly are blessed with wonderful friends and family, and thank God for you daily!

March 7, 2011

Why now?

For many years, missions was a "later" plan of ours (after the kids ________; fill in the blank).  Many times it was easy to mix up the desire to want the best of our kids with the desire to want God's best for them.  Oftentimes our "ideal" is limited by our own past experiences and wishes for the future.  The reality is we don't really know what is "ideal" - especially from God's perspective - for our lives or our children's lives.

On a separate issue, dealing with long-term health issues brought about a resignation on my (Chris) part to ever be able to consider overseas ministry in the future.  But, the God we serve is bigger than our own plans, hopes or dreams.  As is stated so well in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God worked in and through us to bring us to a place that we surrendered everything - our family, our things, our plans, our lives - to do whatever it is He would have us do whenever He would choose to use us.  We waited... we prayed... we seeked... and the Lord showed us where we could now join Him in His work in Lyon. 

Now, we are blessed, humbled and excited to serve!

March 4, 2011

Why France?

As we began considering ReachGlobal, we contacted our long-time friend Mike, who is the Area Leader for ReachGlobal Europe.  With a great Skype conversation, we mentioned that we thought it may be good to consider serving in an English-speaking country since we doubted our language learning skills and our kids are teens.  He, in turn, shared about various city teams throughout Western Europe that may fit well with our gifts & strengths so we could consider various locations of ministry.  The first city he mentioned was Lyon, France because of their English-speaking church, International Christian Community of Lyon, and the need for a worship pastor within the next year. 

As Mike shared about a number of cities and their ministries, our hearts were still intrigued with Lyon.  We had never thought of France, but now we were interested in learning more.  With his help, we connected with another Mike, the Lyon City Team Leader, via Skype.  What a great time of sharing we had with Mike!  The Lyon City Team's vision for ministry was so exciting and we could see specific areas where we could "fit"!

Over the months, we have continued learning more about Lyon, French culture and the post-Christian atheism and materialism.  Yet, this emptiness has created a spiritual hunger that has grown rapidly in recent years.  We were reminded at a dinner with David, another ReachGlobal Area Leader through a vision that he had that the church in Europe is not dead; she is just sleeping.  It is exciting to consider serving in France and be able to witness first hand God's touch as He wakes up the church!