Archive for April, 2008

28
Apr
08

Watchman Nee

It’s not often that I read books by non-Western authors, but recently I read the little pearl The Normal Christian Life by the Chinese preacher Watchman Nee (you should check out this story of a truly remarkable man!).  It’s a book with incredible insights and depth, and a book that I know I will be reading many more times and continue to discover new things each time I read it. I have gotten many thoughts sparked by Nee’s book where he basically takes Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 5-8 and explains how the normal Christian life ought to look like. It’s clear, it’s biblical, it’s powerful, it’s freeing. And sadly it’s not what so many hear in churches all over the world neither when Watchman Nee preached it 70 years ago nor today. We may think that we’re teaching grace and Spirit-filled life, but too often it’s just self help with a little Christian twist and some Bible verses thrown in for religious effect….! 

But Nee’s revelations from God as well as all other people’s revelations mean nothing to me, unless God in his great mercy makes it real for me. I read Watchman Nee’s book and God did give me some revelation of what’s going on in my life right now. How wonderful is it when the Spirit of God makes little black letters on a white paper background come alive and we see more of who God is, what his plans for all mankind and me are and who I am in him! Here are a few of the quotes that stood out to me, and then I hope that the Holy Spirit will make them become life to you, dear reader!

God will not give me humility or patience or holiness as separate gifts of his grace. He is not a retailer dispensing grace to us in packets, measuring out some patience to the impatient, some love to the unloving, some meekness to the proud, in quantities that we take and work on as a kind of capital. He has given only one gift to meet all our need: his Son Christ Jesus. As I look to him to live out his life in me, he will be humble and patient and loving and everything else I need – in my stead” (page 181-182)

The common conception of sanctification is that every item of the life should be holy; but that is not holiness, it is the fruit of holiness. Holiness is Christ. It is the Lord Jesus being made over to us to be that. So you can put in anything there: love, humility, power, self-control. Today there is a call for patience: he is our patience! Tomorrow the call may be for purity: he is our purity! He is the answer to every need. That is why Paul speaks of “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) as one and not of “fruits” as separate items. God has given us his Holy Spirit, and when love is needed the fruit of the Spirit is love; when joy is needed, the fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is always true. It does not matter what your personal deficiency, or whether it be a hundred and one different things, God has always one sufficient answer: his Son Jesus Christ, and he is the answer to every human need” (page 182-183)

Anything we can do without prayer and without an utter dependence upon God must come from the spring of natural life that is tainted with the flesh. Of course it is not true that those only are suited for a particular work who lack the natural gift for it! The point is that, whether naturally gifted or not – and we should praise God for all his gifts – they must know the touch of the Cross in death upon all that is of nature, and their complete dependence upon the God of resurrection” (page 232-233)

 “inward knowledge will never be reached along the barren path of self-analysis” (page 236)

my true knowledge of self comes not from my searching myself, but from God searching me” (page 238 )

Blessings, Torben 

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28
Apr
08

Find me in the river

I really enjoy this Delirious? song Find Me In The River. It’s a simple song with very simple, but interesting lyrics. The song, as far as I understand it, tells a story about a believer who has run dry. A believer who has tried on his own. A believer who has been living a surface Christian life. But now this believer has run dry. The well of self effort and religion can only sustain you for so long. It will run dry eventually. And now this believer is admitting that “we didn’t count on suffering, we didn’t count on pain, but if the blessing is in the valley, then in the river I will wait“. It’s so true that we often don’t count on suffering and difficulties in our walk with God. Even though Jesus made it painfully clear that we would experience problems and tribulations as his followers (John 15: 18-27 is just one example), we forget that. We forget that there is a cost to real, authentic discipleship and life and intimacy with God! Our flesh needs to be crucified. We need to lay down our ideas, thoughts, opinions, desires, dreams and allow God to call the shots and direct us. And he will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), because he wants us to come to the place where we say that we will wait and endure anything as long as we will receive God’s life and blessings!

Torben 

28
Apr
08

David’s insights

As you’ve been able to read a bit about on my blog in this entry I’ve been fascinated by David from the Bible these past months. As I was reading through some of the book of Psalms the other day, I was once again struck by the simple, clear faith that David possessed. Here are just a few pearls from the Psalm showing David’s trust in God.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14)

“(…) weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)

Into your hand I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth” (Psalm 31:5)

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7)

Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34: v. 8 )

What simplicity, what trust, what clear understanding of God being the source of all goodness, deliverance, truth and strength. David always knew who was his source for love, acceptance, protection, significance and worth. He chose to find it in God. He chose to taste God. What an interesting picture that is. How do you taste God? I think you do that by “eating” his truth and his life. Jesus said that he was the true bread from heaven (John 6), and he said that he was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Get to know Jesus. Spend time with him. Allow him to reveal himself to you as life. Experience Christ being your life and living your his life through you. And more and more you’ll experience that less and less things are truly important. Søren Kierkegaard said: “Purity of heart is to will one thing“. David knew this. He only wanted one thing. He only wanted God. Nothing else mattered. 

I want to experience more of this simplicity, purity and life. So I continue to ask God to take me to places where I can get rid of all the things that I so often build my life around. I ask him to take me deeper through the process of brokenness and where I come to experience that ONLY God is the constant one, and only he will be my daily and eternal hiding place.

Blessings, Torben 

23
Apr
08

Friend of God

I have had this song in my head the past couple of days. What a wonder it is that God calls ME his friend! Me…..fragile, doubtful, fearful, self-righteous, self-pitying, crazy, unstable me….God is perfect in his being, in all his ways and he chooses to call me his friend. Just like he did with Abraham who believed God and God credited it to him as righteousness and called him his FRIEND (James 2:23). I have my righteousness in God. Christ is my righteousness, and I’m God’s friend. Jesus put it this way to all his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:15-16).

Christ wants to change this world through his disciples, through his friends, and it all happens because of him not because of us and what we can pull together in ourselves. Jesus calling his disciples friends comes in the same passage in John 15 where Jesus explains how life, growth, and everything else in the kingdom of God takes place. He does it all. He does it through his children, through his friends. And all we are called to do is to REMAIN IN HIM and bear fruit – fruit that will last! He is the vine, he is the power, he is the the source of life in us, he brings forth life in us and through us. We are his broken cups, but we are his friends!

I love the story of Peter meeting Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection (John, chapter 21). Peter had deserted Jesus and had denied that he ever knew him. Jesus is on the beach, and calls out to Peter and the other disciples who are out in their boats fishing (they probably figured that they had to get started with their normal pre-encountering-Jesus-jobs). Peter immediately jumps in the water and swims to the shore. And Jesus doesn’t meet him with a “what have you done, Peter….I’m so disappointed with you”, instead he meets Peter with a “let’s have breakfast”. He is being Peter’s friend and after their beach breakfast he reinstates Peter as the disciple he had chosen as the leader of the first church. No condemnation. No “now I know that I can’t ever trust you”. Jesus and Peter both know that Peter is broken. That he will be known as one of the disciples who deserted Jesus. And that’s one of the good reasons for appointing Peter to be the leader of the church. Because he is broken. Peter doesn’t have the same faith in himself and in his strengths and abilities anymore, and others won’t look to him as being perfect in all his ways. But Peter is Jesus’ friend, and Jesus knows that Peter will remain in Jesus and get all his strength from him and Jesus can start building his Church through his broken and humble friend. 

Torben – who wants to learn much more about what it means for me to be God’s friend. It’s a mind blowing mystery, but I trust that God will continue to reveal and unpack it for me

19
Apr
08

When does spring start?

Sometimes I overhear conversations about when spring actually starts. Some suggest when the snow is gone, others insist it’s March 1 or April 1. Then again there are people who talk about a random date in the middle of March or April. Others, maybe primarily Communists or Socialists (?), talk about May 1 as the day spring starts. 

I know exactly when spring started. It started yesterday. No doubt about that. I’m blessed enough to live in an apartment complex where there is a wise, old lady (babuschka), or at least I’m convinced it’s a woman, who decides for us in the building when it’s spring and when it’s winter. 

Yesterday (let’s just call her) Olga decided that now it’s spring, so she turned off all the heating in our radiators in all the apartments in the building. And all we can do is celebrate that we’re not cold any more (even though I did feel rather chilly sleeping this night), and now it’s spring and we don’t need any heating in our apartment! What a wonderful thing that we have Olga to make up our minds as to when we need heating and not. In November Olga will decide that it’s winter, but unfortunately we won’t be here for that, and when we move to America we’re once again left to decide for ourselves when the seasons begin and end. 

Torben – who would love to imagine what most of my friends would think if somebody else decided when they could have heating or not… 🙂

17
Apr
08

Be the center

More than 2,5 years ago Jeannette and I got married in Garden City, Georgia, USA and one of the songs we chose for all of us to sing at our wedding was the beautiful hymn “Be The Center” (or Centre for the Brits among us..!) by Michael Frye.

We chose this song together with the old, classic hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” to sing at our wedding because both songs point to the fact that for us to stay together as a married couple and continue to love each other, and grow with each other and with God all is dependent on God! It’s not about us! Jesus needs to be the center, and as long as he is the center and we rely on him no matter if it’s “summer, or winter, or spring time or harvest” we will stay together and we will continue to see more of and live more in the great plan that God has for us as individuals and as a married couple.

We sang Be The Center at YWAM Kyiv’s family night tonight, and I was just reminded of God’s faithfulness throughout the years and how wonderful and interesting and ever-changing life with him truly is when he is the center of all we do!

Jesus be the center, be my source, be my light, Jesus. Jesus be the center, be my hope, be my song, Jesus. Be the fire in my heart. Be the wind in these sails. Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus. Jesus be my vision, be my path, be my guide, Jesus

Torben

11
Apr
08

FAQ about why I don’t eat cheese

I was looking through some of my old blog posts on my old blog www.torbenriisjensen.blogspot.com and I came across my old masterpiece about cheese. And since – for some reason – I’ve gotten a lot of the good, old questions about why I don’t eat cheese these past weeks, I thought I would reprint this FAQ for a new generation of blog readers! It was written two years ago, but nothing has changed! Enjoy 🙂

Q: Why don’t you just make a FAQ where you answer all the questions regarding why you hate cheese and never eat it?
A: Here it is!

Q: How can you not like cheese?
A: It’s really not that difficult. It’s not wrong to not like cheese. Cheese is just one food product type. It’s really not any stranger than not liking green beans or mustard. It is in fact a fairly low percentage of the world where cheese is something that “everybody” eats. Look at China, India and the rest of East Asia. No cheese. Look at all of Africa and much of South America: very little cheese. And that may be something like 70-80% of the world’s population that is not obsessed with cheese! And I’m okay being a minority in my part of the world.

Q: Did something happen when you were little that made you hate cheese?
A: Hmm…..boring answer: no. More interesting answer: there was in fact one incident where my brother, Carsten (you can confirm the story with him (!)), took a piece of bread with butter and cheese and a bread knife and tried to force me to eat the cheese…! He was so tired of my sister and I constantly talking about hating cheese, and I guess that drove him to desperate means of communication. Today Carsten is a more peaceful cheese-lover who has to live with the pain that his sons, Christian and Jakob, don’t eat cheese either. Like uncle, like nephews!!
Q: Have you always hated cheese?
A: Yes, Always. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate cheese. It’s been going on for a bit more than 32 years now. My parents used to say that it would change when I grew up. They gave up quite a few years ago.

Q: What is it you hate about cheese?
A: Everything. The texture. The smell. The look of it. The fact that it is a product that has come to be through a process of putrefaction/decay/rotting which my dictionary suggest as proper translations of the beautiful Danish word forrådnelse. I feel physically bad when I see people eat cheese, especially when they seem to enjoy it. It makes me sick to my stomach. And Jeannette and I have a clear-cut rule that says that she has to eat a piece of chewing gum after she has tasted the forbidden fruit. For some reason she loves cheese:-(

Q: What about cheese on pizza or lasagna?
A: I’m completely orthodox, and I don’t eat cheese on pizza or lasagna either. And trust me: a pizza or lasagna without cheese is wonderful. In fact I dare you, dear reader, to try it and see for yourself. All of a sudden all the other yummy ingredients will taste of so much more when they’re not overwhelmed by the stinking and foul-tasting cheese. Trust me!

Q: Do you eat any kind of cheese?
A: Nope. None. Not even cream cheese or the like.
Q: Have you ever tried cheese?
A: There have been clever people who have tried to trick me into eating cheese. I recall a Norwegian mother who thought she was pretty brilliant when she put cheese in some rolls that I apparently liked. But other than these crimes towards humanity I haven’t eaten cheese with my knowledge.

Q: But how can you not like cheese when you’re from Denmark where they make such good cheese?
A: I’m happy that so many people spend their money on Danish cheese and support my home country that way, but I’m more than happy not to eat cheese products. I enjoy a whole range of other Danish products, especially red hot dogs, so I don’t feel like a national traitor either.

Q: What do you do if you’re in somebody’s house and they serve food with cheese?
A: I do my best to avoid eating it. Obviously I can end up in some social contexts where it’s only appropriate to try to eat whatever is served, but in most homes it’s okay to say that you don’t eat cheese. These days we have people who don’t eat or are allergic to numerous things, so it’s normally not a big deal.

Q: Is your whole family cheese-haters?
A: My parents and my brother love cheese, but my sister is on my team. She doesn’t eat cheese either, and we enjoy being part of our little exclusive club 🙂

Q: If you had to choose between killing your wife Jeannette and eating cheese what would you choose?
A: What an insane question!! Obviously I would never hurt my wonderful wife, but still….eating cheese…….I’m not sure I could do it. I’m not sure I could swallow it…….Please….if you read this and are into torture and have plans of catching me….please consider another means of torture….:-(

Q: Will you ever start eating cheese?
A: No. I will not.

Torben




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