Archive for May, 2008

28
May
08

Mad World

Every year in Great Britain there is heavy competition among all bands and singers to be the one with the no.1 hit in Great Britain on Christmas day. Most of the time it’s a happy-go-lucky Christmas song, a people-are-starving-in-Africa-and-by-buying-this-single-you-can-calm-down-your-bad-conscience-for-just-a-few-pounds-song, or a classic pop song that wins. But in 2003 a song called Mad World won. A strange, sad, semi-suicidal song about the madness, hopelessness and sadness of the world. Apparently many people in Great Britain and many people on youtube.com where more than 6 million people have seen this video could relate to the music and its lyrics! 

I heard it for the first time last year, and I have often thought of it since. Because I believe it describes what most people think about the world. It’s gone mad. It’s spinning out of control. Life sucks, and there is little hope that it will get a whole lot better. 

Earthquakes in China, typhoons in Myanmar, an Austrian man holding his daughter as a basement sex slave for decades….the images, the stories…..it’s dark, it’s terrible. It’s hopeless. It’s easy to give in to collective depression and agree that it’s a Mad World and it will never get any better.

What about me as a believer in Jesus Christ? Do I believe that the world has gone mad or do I see Jesus as the only hope, and do I see hope in him actually making a difference? Jesus is the only hope. I don’t have answers to all the questions that come with tragedies in China, Myanmar, Austria or when somebody loses their little baby or when somebody can’t find a job or a boy friend. I don’t know what to say. But I hold on. And I cry out to Jesus to reveal himself to all of us who are hurting. I don’t believe that the world is all mad. Even though it sometimes looks like it. Sometimes I have to look hard to see life, but I see it. I see little leaves of green emerge already from the catastrophe in China. I hear reports from a friend of mine who is a missionary in China of people starting to care more about each other and work more closely together. That’s life. Life coming out of death. I refuse to give in to despair over the world or over people I know or over myself – I trust that Christ is changing the world from within! One little step at a time. I see light and life, and I see lives being changed. So I know that not all is madness in the world. 

Watch the video to Mad World here and then see the contrast to the other video by Third Day with the song Cry Out To Jesus. Pain and suffering is real, but there is hope!

 

(there seems to be a problem with watching the Third Day video on this blog, but you can see the video here, if the direct showing doesn’t work.)

Torben

28
May
08

How to reach people with the Gospel

I’m on a roll today as far as blog entries go, but I have a lot on my mind that I want to express on these pages. Hope you enjoy reading it. It’s the beauty of blogging. I have no clue what people think when they read these entries. Some days 10 people pass through, some days 45 people come and read what I write. All of them are looking for something – do they find it? I don’t know. But I enjoy blogging and expressing what I think, feel and what God has revealed to me.

In Denmark I was visiting three different small groups from my home church. I was sharing a lot about identity in Christ and how to allow Christ to live out his life through us as believers. What a privilege to be allowed to share a little bit about this wonderful and life-changing truth that Christ lives in us and gives us life. It was also very humbling, because I am by no means an expert. I have only scratched the surface of this mystery. And I look forward to learning and experiencing more. But all we can do is to share about what has been revealed to us so far, realizing that we still see all things in a poor reflection compared to what we will see someday when we were with Christ and see him face to face (1. Corinthians 13:12).

I got a question from one of the small groups that went something like this: “How can we reach more people here in Copenhagen?“. A great question, and a question that I believe all sincere Christians ask themselves and each other (exchanging Copenhagen with their own city).

Many try to answer this question with new campaigns, new events, new ideas, new leaflets, new evangelism styles, new focus, new pastors, new churches, new worship songs, new creativity, new ministries, new types of preaching, new translations of the Bible, new hair styles……you name it, it’s being tried! And does it work? Does it attract people to Jesus Christ? Some of it does, if it’s Christ’s idea! Some of it doesn’t. It may attract people to Christian sub-cultures, but it doesn’t attract people to Christ, because it’s not his doing. We as believers can do many things in Christ’s name that he doesn’t have anything to do with…..! Unless it’s his idea, done his way through his people – and will give all the glory to him, it’s not something Christ is in, behind or blesses in his abundant ways! 

The truth is that the only thing that will ever attract anybody to your church or to your Savior and where it will make a lasting impact that goes beyond the two weeks-two years excitement of a new church/a new initiative is……..LIFE!! Real life. Authentic life. Life that makes a difference. 

If there is real life in your church it doesn’t matter if it’s super conservative, strangely Orthodox or top-emergent, super-relevant church. People will be attracted to it! All people are seeking something that’s true, something that’s genuine, something that’s larger than life and gives their lives meaning. Sure, most people seem to settle for the easy accessible sedatives of the world or of religion, but the longing remains. We were all born with a longing for something real! We long to encounter truth, because we by instinct know that truth will give us freedom!

And this is where you as a believer come in. And this is what I answer the small group: “you need to get to know God better“. You need to fall in love with Jesus Christ. You need to experience Christ as life. You need to experience him living his life through you, and you need to experience that it makes a radical difference. Ideas, events, plans won’t make a difference if knowing Jesus Christ doesn’t make a difference in your own life. If knowing Christ doesn’t make a difference in the areas that mean most to most people: family, other relationships, marriage, single hood, hopes and dreams for the future, how you raise your children, how you relate to people you don’t like, etc. people simply won’t care what you have to share with them!

Does your relationship with Christ make a difference in your everyday life? Can people see and eat the fruit that grow on you when you remain in Christ and allow him to live his life through you (John 15)? Or do people just hear a lot of words from  you, but both they and you know that you don’t really believe what you say……..?

Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17-19 this wonderful prayer that has become my own and was the one I prayed with the small group last week. It’s not about pulling ourselves together and somehow start to believe more. We need God’s revelation. We need to seek God in the Bible, in our fellowship with other believers, in nature, in books, movies, etc. and ask God to reveal himself to us. If he doesn’t reveal himself, all we have to offer is head knowledge about God and who he, and that won’t help you or other people.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

I joined Youth With A Mission and became a missionary and a discipleship trainer because of a girl’s testimony. She was just sharing with me about her relationship with God, and the Holy Spirit turned on all the lights of heaven and all of a sudden I could see that I didn’t have that relationship with God, and that’s all I really wanted! She was just sharing, and Christ, who is life, spoke through her and called me to more life in him. It wasn’t about her or her words, but what she was sharing was real to her, and I was attracted to it, and Christ used her to spoke to me and called me to life with him! What wonder it is when we experience life in Christ – it will always be contagious for other people! Whether they want to be infected or not 🙂

I realize that it’s easier and more convenient to just make new plans and try, try, try to make people interested in Christ. But the truth is that it is only when Christ shines through his people that non-believers get attracted to Christ. It’s as simple as that. And for us all we can do is to ask God to reveal himself more and more. Nobody needs more information, we need more life, and Christ is the only life! How do we do that? We give up….we give up and ask God to reveal himself! We surrender the right we feel we have to make life with God happen through our efforts, and we ask for his revelation. There is nothing wrong with exercising Christian disciplines such as solitude, silence, reading the Bible, prayer, etc. but if that’s where you find your identity as a Christian instead of in Christ himself, it’s a problem. If, on the other hand, you do these things because this is who you are as a believer: you are a new creation (2. Corinthians 5:17) and you want to know God better and you ask him to reveal himself through it, I am convinced he will! It’s all about God and his revelation of who he is – so that’s what I prayed for myself and for Copenhagen as a I was cycling through it – “God, we need more of your revelation!”

Torben

28
May
08

“Yes, I believe the Bible is true”

During my two weeks in Denmark recently I had a long and good conversation with an old friend of mine. We were talking about life, love, football, why F.C. Copenhagen had such a poor season, the Church, the Bible, Christ – all the good stuff 🙂 We had been chatting for a couple of hours, when my friend exclaimed: “how refreshing it is to sit and talk to someone who actually believes that the Bible is God’s truth!“.

That comment took me by surprise. How could it be something special that I believe that the Bible contains God’s truth? How could it be unique that I take God’s Word seriously and believe that God uses this old book to reveal truths about who he is and who I am in him?

My friend works in a Christian school and is part of a Christian youth work and has many friends who have been Christians for decades. He is surrounded by Christians, but according to him fewer and fewer actually take God’s Word seriously! Wow…! Talk about emergent church gone bad….! His fellow Christian workers have lost a lot of their faith in the Bible. They see it more and more as a book of the past: “Today we need strategies, ideas, workshops, events, festivals. We need to focus on different relevant themes, do videos, sing worship songs, read, eat, drink and be with non-believers. We need to be in the world! The Bible is still okay, but it isn’t really an authority any more. Surely I know more these days than the Biblical writers knew back then. And surely I need to re-interpret different things in the Bible that I don’t like or understand. That’s normal. Everybody does it“, I’m told or hear between the lines of many post-modern and top-confused Christians of 2008! 

I have worked with discipleship training schools with Youth With A Mission the last five years, and I have to admit that I get more and more sad when I see how little we know and trust God’s Word these days. I have asked different leaders from Europe, Asia and North America about how well their discipleship students know, trust and live the Bible, and all of them unfortunately say that it gets worse and worse as far as Bible knowledge goes. Not that knowledge in itself is alpha and omega, but more and more Christians simply don’t know the big lines of the Scriptures. Questions such as: what was the point of the law in the Old Testament? Who was Joseph? What are some of the main themes in the writings of Paul, Peter or John? are considered deep theological wisdom if you actually have an answer..! And this is just the basics. How can we get to know God more, if we know his Word so poorly? How can the Holy Spirit inspire us and bring old things we’ve heard alive if we haven’t heard any of the “old things”? I have personally experienced many times in the last years how the (often times) deadly boring Bible lessons and sermons I sat through as a kid without getting much out of it, have become priceless to me as the Holy Spirit when I was ready for it blew his life into these words and Scriptures that were in my mind somewhere. Getting to know the Bible and the themes of the Bible is a wonderful way to give the Holy Spirit some great raw material to bring life to!

The Bible has always been under attack. That’s not a new thing. People have tried and continue to try to undermine the Bible and say that it’s filled with errors. The Da Vinci code wasn’t the first book that was trying to undermine the Bible. Many Christians hear these statements from the so-called experts and scientists and take them as truth. And Satan succeeds in slowly undermining the Bible’s credibility and authority in many Christians lives – “can the Bible really be trusted? Surely these things need to be understood completely differently today? If you think that things look differently, why should an old book decide over you?” he whispers, and many buy into these lies and life disappears. 

The Bible could and can stand its test. Just go ahead and shoot, the Bible is bullet proof. If you seriously want to study the Bible and see if it’s trustworthy, you’ll find that no other book has been tested and tried as many times and no other book has higher credibility than the Bible.

Or you could take a different approach and start believing. “Faith means acting as if God is telling the truth”, someone once said. And faith in the Bible means acting as if the Bible is God’s truth. Try the Bible. Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching (as revealed in the Bible), you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32) and in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life“. Jesus is life. Jesus is truth. And truth will set you free. Do you want freedom? Get to know Jesus. He is truth. Read the Bible, and ask God to make it true to you. Ask him to experience the freedom, the life, the love, the peace that is promised when you follow God’s will no matter what your circumstances may be.

I testify to the truth of the Bible. The Bible is a pearl. The Bible is the no. 1 bestseller in the world. And the Bible contains truth that the Holy Spirit loves to reveal to me and to you. I testify to the truths in the Bible that set me free. I know the Bible is true, because I experience it! Again, it doesn’t mean there are not times when I struggle to understand the Bible, or where I just see black words on white sheets of paper and no life. But I have tasted enough that it contains truth, so even in very, very dry seasons I choose to hold on to God and his promises in his word.

Don’t jump the ships that say that we have to re-interpret everything. Don’t be naive. Trust God. He is worthy of your trust. And if that’s hard for you to do, then ask him to help you trust him and his Word. He will answer that prayer, or he is not God at all!

Torben – who could write a whole lot more about this topic, but my wise sister says I have to keep my entries short(ish)…. 🙂

28
May
08

Kierkegaard on Christianity

The great Danish and Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard has said and written many interesting things, but this week’s quote is as relevant now in 2008 as it was when Kierkegaard wrote it in his apartment overlooking Copenhagen in 1800 and something.

Christianity didn’t come in order to develop the heroic virtues of the individual, but rather to remove self-centeredness and establish love

True Christianity is not about me. It’s not about some kind of self-improvement program. It’s not about Christ blessing me so I do better what I do or have more of what I would like to have or suffer less of what I don’t like. That’s not Christianity. Jesus came and raised the bar even higher than the law of the Old Testament – “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment”. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22) and “You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery”. But I tell you that that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28 ) – what was his point with this? For us to be able to do what he told us? Nope, absolutely not. On the other hand, he showed his followers back then and his followers today that we are incapable of fulfilling the law. We need a Savior. We need Christ. We need somebody to do what we cannot do. And as in Kierkegaard’s quote that includes love. “Love your God and love your neighbor” Christ proclaimed. I don’t even know how to do that. But Christ does. God is love. And God will move me away from self-centeredness and the absurd idea that I have it all together and to the place where I cry out to God and ask him to live, lovee and forgive through me. And he will. And he does. And life – the way God always intended it – is being established, a life where I have all my deepest needs met in God and can experience his life and blessing flowing through me!

Torben 

26
May
08

My Jesus

Hello dear blog reader!

I am back from a great time in the happiest country in the world. They did look pretty happy those Danes I met, since it was great weather most of the time I was there 🙂 Now I’m in Kiev and back with more blog entries these next days. I will start out with a video with Todd Agnew’s thought provoking song My Jesus. What Jesus is it that you claim to follow? I have often had to ask myself that question. And I had to ask some of the people I spoke to in Denmark the same question – what God is it that you follow? When you’re steeped in frustrations and experience little of the abundant life that Christ promised (John 10:10), is it because you follow a different Jesus than the one described in the Bible? Have you created your own Jesus? 

Listen to the song, read the words and think and pray about the challenge in this song. (A little help with a couple of words: accosted means ‘approach or address someone boldly or aggressively’ and Beale Street is a street in Memphis, Tennessee with clubs, restaurants and a busy night life)

“I am tired of living for success and popularity, I want to be like my Jesus”

I want to know the Jesus of the Bible more and more, and I am seeing more and more that this may mean being misunderstood, misquoted, lonely, cursed at and treated poorly in every possible way! That was part of the reality of Jesus’ life here on earth – why I am expecting something different when I claim to follow him?

How wonderful it is that it’s not about me trying to be a mini-Jesus, even though unfortunately many people think so. WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) was an interesting campaign, and I understand that the heart behind was to help believers remember what Jesus would have done in this and that situation, but the truth of the Gospel is that it’s not about me becoming more like Jesus as far as me knowing what Christ would do and then do it. It’s about me surrendering to the fact that I don’t know how to live, love and forgive and ask Christ to do it through me. It’s about Jesus being allowed by me to express his life through me. All we have to do is believe and abide in Christ (John 15), and then he will love, live, comfort and bring hope through us. You don’t ever have to worry about not having the right words to say or the answers to all questions, Christ will speak and answer through you. The more I see that it’s never about me, it’s all about Christ, the more freedom I can experience. The more I accept the (for my flesh and according to other peoples’ standards) humiliating fact that I am just a sheep following my Shepherd and that all glory must go to him, the more I experience what the New Testament promises those who follow the wounded Shepherd who died on a cross 2000 years ago to bring forgiveness of sins and abundant life now and forever to his children. 

Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)

Torben – who still feels like he’s only just scratched the surface of the incredible mystery that Christ lives in me and through me and I never have to worry about anything!

15
May
08

How can I be a blessing?

These days in Denmark I get to meet with many friends, family members, supporters and other great people, and I try to ask a lot of them a question that God has put on my heart to ask: “how can I be a blessing for you?“. It’s interesting to see the thoughtful, but happy faces people generally have, when they get that question. It’s obvious that it’s not too often they’re asked that question, and it’s also clear that it’s a question that’s very welcome. 

Throughout the Bible we see that every time God blesses somebody it has a dual purpose. The principle of God’s blessings is always: you are blessed to be a blessing! It starts in Genesis chapter 12 where God tells Abram (later Abraham) the following: 

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 2-3)

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m called to bless and not curse. To bless without ceasing. To bless everybody, no matter what they say or to do me. Jesus is very clear on this subject: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In the book of Romans Paul repeats the same theme: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). And these verses in Romans were spoken to Christians who were all facing severe persecution and troubles because of their faith. That didn’t change the principle though: we are always called to bless, encourage and lift people up! 

What a blessing it is when we are blessed by other people. When people choose to point out the good in us in stead of focusing on the negative sides all the time. How precious it is when we choose to encourage, lift up and love those who are hurting or messing up their lives. 

I have been richly blessed so far in my week in Denmark. I’ve had the privilege of meeting brothers and sisters in Christ where we could sit down and just bless each other. Bless each other by sharing what God is doing in us and through us. And this is how God has chosen to bless the world: through his children! Through his broken cups. Through his beloved Church. Every genuine blessing from God will be a blessing for me, but also for other people. There is no such thing as a “private faith” or a faith where you can’t see fruit. Real faith in Christ will produce fruit. Fruit to enjoy for other people around me. Not because of me, but because of Christ. I’m just the branch hanging loose in Christ (John 15). He produces the fruit in me. He is the fruit. So every time somebody is blessed through me, all glory goes to God – it’s all about him! I do nothing to produce fruit or to be a blessing to other people! All I do is share what God is showing me, and then his words through me becomes blessings to the people I encounter.

Maybe that could be a challenge for you, dear blog reader, to ask at least two people you know: “how can I be a blessing for you?” sometime this next week

Can I do something for you? Pray for you? Take care of your kids an evening? Rub your back? Just sit and listen to you? Lend you my shoulder to cry on? Walk your dog? Water your plants? Cook you a meal? Lend you my car?

Torben 

14
May
08

From the kids’ room :-)

Heard in the kids’ room when I visited my brother and his wife this past weekend: My nephews Christian and Jakob were talking about something, and this dialogue played out:

Christian (9 years): “I know that! I know how to do that too!

Jakob (6 years): “You don’t know everything. Jesus is the only who does. He even knows what 10×10 is!

Torben – 🙂 I guess there was really no point for Christian to argue with that. Jesus surely is the wisest person to ever live, and he even knows what 10 times 10 is..! 

 




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