Archive for June, 2008

30
Jun
08

“I am Canadian”…

Happy Canada Day to my Canadian readers. I don’t have too strong opinions one way or the other about the country of Canada, and since I’ve only spent 20 minutes in Canada (on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls of course) I can’t say that I’ve seen much of the country either. But I do know a few things that are just facts of life: Canada is nice, and Canadians are nice! It’s just the way it is!

And then they make great commercials. I definitely enjoy these three commercials for the Canadian beer which obviously is called “Canadian”. Enjoy 🙂

Torben – who would love to have a pet beaver! 🙂

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28
Jun
08

In spite of

I love just a few worship songs. And one common theme for the songs I really love is that there is a sense of “in spite of” about them. It’s easy and comfortable to sing worship songs “because of”. When life feels good and things and relationships go the way I hope for, I sing to God and praise him because of all he is doing. That’s easy enough. It comes natural that you want to praise somebody when things feel great. I just can’t help myself. But what do I do in the times when “things are not as they should be”?

Do I still praise God? Do I still declare God’s goodness even when I don’t see it or feel it? Is God God even when I feel he’s not doing his job (properly)?

Times of challenges in my walk with God are pivotal points. Either we choose to go with God and we experience more and deeper life with him, or we run away and we miss out on what God has for us. God is a gentleman. He doesn’t force any of us to grow (up) in him. We can stay spiritual babies if we choose to. Fair weather Christians don’t experience abundant life. Abundant life with Christ is not possible to experience outside of walking with him in both darkness and light. Many people stay fair weather Christians because they don’t grow in their trust in God. But often times we have to take a step of faith in order to experience that God is who he says he is. Choose to praise him, choose to declare who he is, and ask him to fill you with peace and trust in him. I know he will answer that prayer, he is in the midst of doing it in my own life.

I love the lyrics of this song Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman, and often times God reminds of the truth of it, when I feel like running away from God. He reminds me that he is worthy of praise no matter what my circumstances may suggest.

Torben

28
Jun
08

Peace

It struck me as I was sitting in my home away from home (our local McDonald’s) and was chatting with a Norwegian friend of mine how incredible it is what’s been going on in my life these past couple of years. My teenage years and my early twenties were filled with a lot of confusion. A lot of frustration. A lot of crying out to God and trying to make my life work, but always coming up short somehow. I longed for peace, but hardly ever felt any.

But God is good. God is faithful. “He will complete the good work he has begun in you” (Philippians 1:6), he promised, and I see more and more that that’s my reality. God has known all along what he was up to in my life. When I look back at the first 31 years of my life, I can see how he has been forming me more and more into the image of his son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28 is one of the more (mis-)quoted passages of Scripture. It says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Many people are confused about what “the good” means. Some say that you’re supposed to find something that’s (feels) good in any situation in a “there are always two sides to a coin”-logic. But that’s not what this verse is talking about. There are many things that are difficult in life. God has never promised that all things have something in them we enjoy, but Paul shows in the next verse what “the good” is: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers“. “The good” that God will bring out of every situation no matter how hard or difficult it may be is that he will conform us more and more into the likeness of his son. The good is looking and being more and more like Jesus. 

God has been changing me more and more into looking like his son throughout my life. Hard experiences and difficult struggles have given me insights I can share with people who are struggling. It doesn’t mean that I’m insanely happy about everything that has happened to me. I still struggle to understand why certain things happened, but I trust God to bring life out of even hard experiences. Everything I have learned can be used in the kingdom of God somehow. I have often been blown away these past few years about the randomness of things God can use for his glory:

  • God has used my insight into sports, particularly football (soccer) to open countless conversations with young men from all over the world that I’ve met. And often these conversations have ended up in me sharing about who Christ is.
  • God has used my passion for and knowledge about geography to open up conversations and to give me a platform to be able to relate to and care about people from the whole world.
  • God has even used my size, the way I’m built, to open up peoples’ lives. I will never forget the time where a smaller built Ukrainian DTS student came up to me during a time of prayer and said that she was so happy she could trust me. I was, according to her, the first bigger guy she had dared to trust in her life. Other times other girls have said something similar that seeing a big and strong guy cry and share his heart has helped give them faith back in men and that men can be sincere and sensitive. 

But this blog entry is titled “Peace” and to me that’s one of the biggest miracles that have happened these past couple of years here in Ukraine. I experience more and more peace. I still have questions, struggles, frustrations, my flesh, my pride, etc. that want to press me down and stress me. But it seems like more and more I experience the peace that Paul talked about: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). I have seen this in my life that I can feel and experience peace even when it seems like everything is difficult. And it has nothing to do with me trying really hard to be peaceful. It’s a gift from God. A gift of peace. And a gift that I believe he wants to give more of to me. And a gift he longs to give to his children. Jesus talked a lot about leaving his disciples with peace (John 14). God wants for us to experience peace. A peace that transcends all understanding. A peace that goes beyond and right down the middle of our circumstances. 

I thank God that he has calmed a lot of my fears. I thank God that I’m learning more about allowing Jesus Christ to live his life through me. “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). When I experience peace it’s a clear sign that I abide in Christ (John 15). When I allow him to God and myself to be a human being in need of his help, I get to experience peace. When I don’t strive and try to fix my problems and fix myself (!), I experience Jesus’ peace. 

I want to experience more of this peace. I don’t want to be worried about today, tomorrow or what will happen in 10 or 29 years. I know that Christ doesn’t want for me to worry. Worrying brings nothing good. I know that. And I thank God that he has given me more peace. I’m still me. I still have days where peace is not my default setting. Absolutely. But I can look back on the past two years and say with certainty that I experience more and more peace. 

Peace be with you!

Torben

12
Jun
08

The rest of the Gospel

If I had to pick one book that has really challenged and changed me within the last year, it would have to be Dan Stone’s The Rest of the Gospel. It’s a small book from a small publishing house by an unknown author, but it is a masterpiece. Nothing more. Nothing less. I have just given away my only copy of it to a friend of mine who wants to know more about who he is in Christ, but I intend to buy a bunch of them and have them to give to people who truly want to know the truth about how life in Christ looks like.

Here are just a few quotes from the book. May they challenge you, maybe make you buy the book and read more (?), and may the Holy Spirit show you more of who you are in Christ if you’re already a believer. If you’re not a believer, I would still encourage you to read the book and get a taste of the life and freedom that Jesus Christ has bought for his children.

You are not waiting to become holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:22). God sees you as holy and blameless and beyond reproach before him right now. When he looks at you, he sees the nature of his son. He sees you as love. He sees you as joy. He sees you as peace. He sees you as righteous. He sees you as redeemed. He sees you as justified. He sees you as perfect. He sees you complete” (page 103)

It is an affront to God to keep talking about how unworthy we are. It’s a statement of unbelief. “I really don’t believe what God says about me; I believe what I think about me”. We’re never going to anywhere that way. It isn’t being humble. It’s a false humility. It’s the teaching of tradition and the flesh, because it appears humble. What’s truly humble is agreeing with what God says about you. Nothing more. Nothing less. We are the righteousness of God (2. Corinthians 5:21). We don’t look it all the time. We don’t feel it all the time. We don’t think it all the time. But we are” (page 104)

Any activity that’s giving you your identity is an idol and is only contributing to the false self. Our false self thinks it needs external things or activities to give it life. It wants the stroking, the external affirmation, the place of authority, or the the public place to make pronouncements. We are dangerous living out of our flesh, because we’re using others to validate us. But when we no longer need those externals – when we are in Christ and who he is has become foundational truth in our life – then we can handle externals, because we don’t need them for our identity. God will take us through situations again and again to bring us to the place where he is our total life, where we are living out of our true identity. Once we are, he can give us back the external things” (page 107)

Even if we’re messing up, we’re not a liability, because he’s (God) going to use it somehow in our life or in somebody else’s life, or both” (page 111)

This is why we have to fail (in our attempts to please God through with our religious activities). God couldn’t be God and let us succeed in the flesh, or we would never know Spirit life. We have the Spirit – we do contain the living God – but if we don’t live out of him in our daily experience it’s like we don’t have him in us at all. Our failures at living the Christian life press us into knowing him as our life” (page 123)

Amen, brother!

Torben

12
Jun
08

Trust and living on support

I’ve had the privilege of living on support from friends, family members and churches the past four years. I call it a privilege because being dependent on finances from other people is something that I learn a lot from and that teaches me to be humble in an area where it’s extremely easy for me to worry and to rely on me and my abilities and my effort. It’s part of my make up as a man that I want to make sure that I take care of my family’s financial needs. I want to provide for Jeannette. But these four years and many years to come there is very little I can do to provide for our needs. It’s simply not up to me, it’s up to God. If God wants me to get a regular job, he’ll tell me that, and I’ll do that. But for right now it looks like he wants us to continue to be dependent on support from other people.

Jesus had many things to say about worrying, and worrying is a big part of most peoples’ lives. And we worry a lot in the area of finances. Prices on food, apartments, gas, etc. are going up all over the world these days, and money is tight for many people, even in the rich Western nations. I can easily get caught in the circle of worrying, and it’s easy for me to forget that I never ever get anything out of worrying. Worrying never helps anything, it only helps to steal my sleep at night and it helps make me stressed and harder to be around for my wife and other friends. 

My grandmother said that there are 365 places in the Bible where God says “don’t worry” in one way or another. One for each day. I haven’t counted them, and I don’t know if the number is true, but I know that we do need daily exhortations to not worry. 

The opposite of worry is trust. When I don’t worry about finances, it means that I’m in a place of trusting God to provide for all my needs. Trust doesn’t come easy, and I believe that growing in trust is gonna be a life long project for God and me. He knows I am not very good at trusting. He also knows that my heart desires to trust him more. And he knows how to teach me through life’s circumstances and choices what it looks like to trust him more and more. 

The problem is that in the area of finances (and many other areas) it feels comfortable to rely on myself. I need to do it. I need to make it happen. It’s dependent on me. For many people around the globe the area of finances, financial security, pension, insurance policies, etc. becomes an idol. It becomes something we build our sense of security around. But the truth is that when we build our sense of security around something we do, we’re building our houses on sand. And at any time a storm can come and blow it all away. 

Living on financial support from other people that God reminds to give us money is wonderful in the sense that I’m forced to trust God. I’m forced to not rely on myself. I can’t force anybody to give us money. I have no guarantees that the people who have been supporting us this far will continue to support us. I have no guarantees that we will have more supporters and more support which we would obviously need the day we would have children. I don’t know how on earth we would be able to raise maybe four or five times as much support compared to what we have now which we would need if we had a family of five or six a few years down the road. 

I don’t have the option of saving up money to pay for all kind of expenses. We live from month to month, and already the next few months I can’t really see how we’ll be able to afford all the expenses we have connected to moving to America, Jeannette studying, paying our insurance on our car over there and paying the fees for the nine week internship focusing on Exchanged Life counseling that I will be attending this fall. 

I have no clue how we will have all we need for all those expenses. But I know that God is good. I know that God has been good and faithful towards us so far. I know we’ve never lacked anything. I know we’ve been able to go to amazing places these past four years. I know we’ve had enough money to be able to visit family and friends in our home countries. I’ve just seen how God out of the blue provided the money we needed to be able to buy a used car in America! He did that through a couple of people that I’d never talked to before. God showed them that they needed to give us money for a car, and so they did! Hallelujah!

The evidence is heavy on the side of: “God is good, he’ll provide and everything is going to be alright!”, and yet I find myself worrying these days. I find myself checking my web bank more than necessary hoping that some money will have come into my account. I know God is not disappointed with me or mad at me when I worry, but he encourages me to cast all my worries and burdens on him, and then he’ll – once again – show that he is God, and I’m not!

Torben – who even in days of worrying is already looking forward to seeing the cool ways God will provide for everything we need these next few months! God is good all the time! 

08
Jun
08

More than a crutch

I’ve heard it myself a time or two, and it’s one of those classic lines that non-believers use to slam Christians with. It goes something like this: “Christianity and this whole Jesus-thing is just a crutch for you that helps you stand. You’re too weak and confused to stand on your own, and that’s why this works for you. I don’t need any help or any crutches“.

In your face!!…

After I came back from killing myself running around the island of Rusanavka (easy now…it’s only a few kilometers, we’re not talking running around Australia or anything) this morning it hit me that something is wrong with the response that believers often give (and are taught to give) when they hear an accusation like the crutch-one. Believers feel they have to defend themselves and accuse back with statements like: “everyone needs a crutch, some are addicted to coffee, sex or respect. You have a crutch too, mine is just different than yours“. It struck me though that Christ is not a crutch. If he was a crutch for me that would indicate that I just have some issues walking, and all I need is a little help to walk better. But my problems are much bigger than that. He is much more than a crutch for me. I pondered whether Jesus was a wheel chair then. If you’re in a wheel chair you’ve had to accept that you can’t walk on your own, and you need permanent help to be able to move around. But I realized again that my problems are much bigger than that. Jesus is much more than a wheel chair to me.

Jesus is not a crutch, Jesus is not a wheel chair, Jesus is nothing more or less than my life! I’m nothing without him! “Hooray…I knew it, Christians are pathetic!” I hear some non-Christians yell as they read this statement. “Please, Torben, you’re not helping us….we don’t have to sound more pathetic than we are” some believers might sigh as they read my ideas.

But it’s the truth, and with David I will gladly yell out that I will become even more undignified with God! (2. Samuel 6:21-22) In myself I am nothing. I am crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended with Christ! Jesus Christ is my life. And my life as a believer is one where he does it all. He is the vine, I’m just a branch. He gives life, light, love and joy to me and through me (John 15). He is the one who has given me everything! It’s because of him that I am a somebody! I am a prince! I am a co-heir with Christ to everything God has (Romans 8)! I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and I am a poem, a masterpiece in the eyes of God (Psalm 139 and Ephesians 2: 1-10)!

That’s my status as a child of God. But it’s all about him. So yes, Jesus is much more than a crutch or a wheel chair to me. He is my life. It is in him that I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28). So yes, my problems are much bigger than walking difficulties. I can’t do anything worth anything without Jesus!

Is that humbling to me? Yes it is. But as Søren Kierkegaaard wrote it: “Christianity didn’t come in order to develop the heroic virtues of the individual, but rather to remove self-centeredness and establish love“. Growing as a believer requires that I give up on thinking that everything is about me, my ego and my accomplishments. Life is about Jesus. He is LIFE (John 14:6), and every time anybody, whether believer or atheist, experiences life that brings freedom they’re experiencing Christ. I cannot create life. I cannot create life in myself. I do need someone else to do it for me and in me and through me. And that someone is Jesus Christ.

And because I know Jesus to be kind, loving, caring, understanding, creative, fun, entertaining, wonderful, etc. I don’t mind giving up my felt right to think that I need to make things work on my own. I gladly surrender to him, and I choose to allow him to be my life! There are days where I choose to walk on my own and try to create life separate from Christ, but over and over again God in his mercy shows me that it doesn’t work, and only when I seek him will I – or any other human being – experience real life and love and meaning without any headaches and hangovers!

Torben

08
Jun
08

God of this city

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend when Passion 2008 World Tour hit Kiev a few weeks ago. I understand from my wife and several others who attended that it was a wonderful evening of focusing on Christ and celebrating life and hope in him together with each other. Jeannette introduced me to this song, God of this city, originally written by the Northern Irish group Bluetree, but covered by Chris Tomlin for the Passion World Tour. It’s a powerful song of intercession and hope for our cities, our nations, our families, our friends.

It may look like the kingdom of God is weak and is not winning against Satan and his darkness. But the kingdom of God is slowly breaking forth more and more. It may look like great revivals are a thing of the past, and most people don’t think they need God any more. But the truth is that millions each year accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and get to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. It may seem as if people will not agree with a statement like: “You’re the God of this city. You’re the king of these people. You’re the Lord of this nation. You are“….that doesn’t apply to people in my city….you may think! But it does. The song is a piece of intercession and a song of hope. The only hope for all people is to recognize Jesus as their Lord and King! Share the good news with great joy – allow Jesus to live his life through you and shine his light through you. He is the hope. You and are not. He is. And one day every knee shall bow and hail Jesus as Lord. Some will, unfortunately, not do it as an act of love and adoration, but because they will have to do it on Judgment Day (Romans 14:9-12 and Philippians 2:10-11). There may be many people you know who reject Jesus these days. That may be the truth for right now. But don’t give up. Don’t despair. Jesus’ kingdom is breaking forth. In your city too! I have listened to this song daily the past week or so. I need to be reminded of the truths in it. Christ is changing this world. Christ is changing peoples’ lives, and I shouldn’t stand in the way of what he is doing with a negative, Satan-inspired things-and-people-will-never-change-where-I-live-perspective that so many believers unfortunately buy into.

Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city!

Torben 




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