Archive for July, 2008

19
Jul
08

Boring Christianity

Major W. Ian Thomas, a Christian writer and preacher said this about Christianity:

There are few things quite so boring as being religious, but there is nothing quite so exciting as being a Christian

This is so true. Being religious, knowing about God, but not really knowing God is deadly boring. And it doesn’t bring the abundant life that Jesus promised those who follow him. I know many people who are trapped in religion. They think they know God, and they have decided and declared that Christianity is deadly boring. But the truth is that they never knew the real God of the Universe in the first place. In his wonderful book Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning talks about what often happens to young people who grow up in environments where there is a lot of focus of religion and moral attributes, but not a true understanding of the grace, love and life of the God of the Bible.

From her parents a child learn of a deity who strongly disapproves of disobedience, hitting one’s brothers and sisters and telling lies. When the little one goes to school, she realizes that God shares the fussy concerns of her teachers. At church, she learns that God has another set of priorities: she is told that he is displeased that the congregation is not growing numerically, that irregular attendance is the norm, and that his recurring fiscal demands are not being met. When she reaches high school, she discovers that God’s interests have expanded to an obsession with sex, drinking, and drugs. After twelve years of Christian indoctrination at home, school, and church, the teenager realizes with resentment that God has been used as a sanction by all those responsible for her discipline – as when Mommy and Daddy, at their wits’ end over her mischievous antics as a toddler, alluded to “the eternal spanking”. Through this indoctrination, God is unwittingly associated with fear in most young hearts.”

And Manning continues to explain the severe consequences of this tragedy, when he writes: “Moralism and its stepchild, legalism, pervert the character of the Christian life. By the time young people enter college, they have often abandoned God, church and religion. If they persevere in religious practices, their need to appease an arbitrary God turns Sunday worship into a superstitious insurance policy designed to protect the believer against God’s whims. When wounded people fail, as inevitably they must, they engage in denial to protect themselves from punishment. The perfect image must be protected at all costs.” (pages 80-81)

I know many people who fall into the category of people who have rejected God. Either they have rejected him openly and don’t want to have anything to do with him, and don’t call themselves Christians. Or they are active in church, but rarely experience any life, since cynicism, legalism and obedience to a God they don’t know is what drives them. Or they clap, jump, sing, and talk about God, but when the door is closed and they’re all alone with their thoughts the truth is that they don’t really know and trust God and they don’t really know who they are in him.

For years I was bored to death in Church. I didn’t know the God of the Bible. I heard many things about him. I heard many people talk a lot about him. But I didn’t know him. I didn’t see much life in other people, and I didn’t experience any life with him myself. I could say the right words and sing the proper songs, but there was no worship from my heart. The past five-seven years with God have been incredible. I’ve begun my journey of experience with my Father in heaven. I know more about him now. I know that I know that I know that I know that he loves me. That he accepts me. That he is excited about me. That he loves to bless me, challenge me, laugh with and cry with me. I can say with Job: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).

My life is everything bot boring! At times it’s crazy, fun, adventurous, hard to understand, frustrating, insane, beautiful, complex, simple, ever changing, challenging, easy….all of the above, but NEVER boring! Life with the living God can simply not be boring. If you are bored with your faith and your relationship with God, it’s because you don’t know the God of the Bible. The Creator of the Universe. The Savior of me and you. Or maybe you know him, but you’ve walked so far away from relationship with him that you find yourself tired, worn-out and bored.

We have to be careful that we don’t reject God based on our experiences. God is God and I am not. God is who he says he is. If he says he is loving, compassionate, gracious, just and righteous, that’s who he, no matter what you and I may think. We need more revelation of who God is. We don’t need more information, but more revelation. And I pray that God will grant me that.

Many people reject “god” with little g. They have been hurt by church, family, friends. Circumstances were difficult, and they rejected the idea of a loving, kind, compassionate, personal father in heaven.

I pray for the many people I know who are running away from God or who have rejected him, even though they never actually knew him, and are only rejecting a religious, man-made version of the God of heaven. As Blaise Pascal put it: “God created man in his own image, and man returned the favor” (…) I know that I’m capable of running away from God. I pray that God will keep me near. I admit that my relationship with him is based on his faitfulness, not mine. He is the constant one. I change all the time. Or at least my mood does.

I am thankful that God has given me a relationship with him where I get to experience life. I am thankful that life with him is never boring.

And I’m thankful that he is ever-patient with me when I mess up, when I’m a sore loser at a board game (as was the case just last night), when I want to take responsibility for the wellfare of my loved ones (even though that’s his job, and not mine).

Torben – who has arrived safely in the United States of America and is amazed of God’s provision of a safe trip, no problems at the customs in JFK airport, a wonderful Nissan Sentra car, and wonderful friends who are spoiling us rotten these days as we travel in the states of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio before we head down to our new lives in Georgia.

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09
Jul
08

Slow Fade

We’re in the midst of a week of many goodbyes here in Kiev, Ukraine. I am in the process of writing down everything I’ve learnt during our 2,5 years here. Quite a task since God has been very gracious to us and taught us many things. Most of what we’ve learned I have already shared about on this blog, but I will certainly continue to process and possibly share some more insights from the last few years on this site.

I have been struck by the powerful lyrics and the thought provoking and challenging video to Casting Crowns’ song Slow Fade (from their latest album The Altar and the Door). It’s a challenging song. And it’s a brave song. It dares to go against what too many evangelical churches forget to tell people today. It dares to say that your choices, what you look at, what you listen to, the people you hang out with, etc. influence you. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody! But in the last five years I’ve been shocked to see how many Christians live under the assumption (lie!) that it doesn’t matter what they watch, listen to, buy, download, and around what people and at what places they choose to spend their time. I remember being laughed at in my Discipleship Training School five years ago when I suggested the thought that if you listen to depressing, secular music and watch sex-focused movies it’ll affect you and eventually lead you farther away from light, life and love. I thought I was stating the obvious (…), but according to many of my fellow students music, movies and tv-shows didn’t affect them at all. Or if it did, they were definitely too strong to let that become a problem.

The rest of us who want to admit that what we watch, say, do and who we spend time with affect us either for good or for bad, should listen to this song and remember that being a forgiven and perfect (at the spirit level) child of God doesn’t mean that we are immune to making poor choices that potentially destroy our lives and the lives of the people around us.

I have seen many of my friends over the years who thought that it didn’t matter what they did and what choices they made. Many of them live lives that are far removed from Christ and many of them certainly don’t experience the life, peace, freedom, love and joy they were hoping for.

I surrender to God and I openly admit that I am capable of making horrible choices. I surrender to his Spirit, and I ask Christ to make the right choices through me. He is strong, even when I’m weak and tempted to choose what will lead me away from the abundant life in Christ! And I’m so glad that I am forgiven and can run to him when I fail and choose what doesn’t bring life and love to me and to others.

Blessings, Torben

04
Jul
08

Wisdom and humility

Happy Fourth of July to all the wonderful Americans I know out there in the big world! May you have a great day with lots of burgers and fireworks! We will do some barbecue at the beach here in Kiev tomorrow to celebrate Independence Day. How weird is that that I’ll actually be in America in less than two weeks from now…We’re in the midst of packing up our lives here, and we’re looking forward to the new adventures God has for us over there!

Yesterday YWAM Kyiv had a prayer day where we were praying about wisdom. And it struck me how different the idea of wisdom found in the Bible and God’s wisdom in general is from what people generally think of as wisdom. God’s wisdom is far beyond ours, and God’s wisdom always shows itself through people who are humble. You simply can’t get true wisdom if you don’t have a character of humility. Wonderfully-straightforward-and-easy-to-understand-James puts it like this: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13) and a few verses down he elaborates on what godly wisdom is: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17).

Humility comes from wisdom. And without humility you won’t live a wise life. 1. Corinthians 1:30 tells us that Christ became for us wisdom from God. Jesus is wisdom. And Jesus showed us what humility was when he came to earth and lived and died here (Philippians 2 talks about Jesus’ humility). 

I was thinking and praying about it yesterday, and it struck me that it’s a brave prayer to follow James’ exhortation and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). We do want wisdom, but God knows that without the necessary humility and brokenness before God we can’t carry wisdom without it inflating our egos and ultimately lead us away from God. King Solomon of the Old Testament got the choice of from God that he could have whatever he wanted (1. Kings 3 tells the story), and Solomon chose to get wisdom. And we are told that no-one was ever wiser than this king, but unfortunately we also see that Solomon became so wise that he forgot about where he had gotten his wisdom from. He married countless foreign wives and slowly his heart was lead away from God (1. Kings 11). He simply didn’t have the needed humility to carry all the wisdom. 

When I first entered the world of mission to do a Discipleship Training School at Holmsted Manor in England in 2003 I found a welcome note on my pillow where the aforementioned verse from James was written: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). I prayed that prayer many times. God laid it on my heart to also ask for humility, and so he has been answering that prayer ever since. I’m thankful to God that he has taught me more and more about being wise and humble. I am thankful that he has taken me to places and put me in situations where I’ve had the opportunity to die to (some of) my pride. It hasn’t felt great. It hasn’t looked like much in the eyes of other people, but I know and see the difference it has made. So I will continue to ask God for wisdom and humility. I don’t want to build my own sand castles that are made with my ideas and my own hands. I want to build with God. I want to build his kingdom. I want to build what will last when storms come. My sand castles won’t. And I thank God that he is showing me that it’s never about me doing things or building things on my own. That was never God’s plan for his children. Instead it’s about Christ living and building through me. It’s about Christ’s humility and wisdom being manifested through me. I get to be the vessel that God does his work through. But it’s not about me. It’s all about him. And when this is the case, he is also the one getting all the glory. 

I want to live a life where God gets all the glory. I know that when he gets all the glory, myself and other people around me get to experience the abundance of blessings that God loves to pour out on us. He loves to bless us and what we do, but he won’t bless to his full capacity if he knows that what we’re doing is our own little sand castles. That simply wouldn’t be loving either. He knows what will stand when storms of life rage, and he wants to continue to bless his children that choose to build on the Rock of Christ. 

I pray that I may build my personal life, my family life, my ministry life on the only foundation that never fails. I want to build on Jesus. I want to live a life where his life can be manifested. 

I realize that “God is God and I am not. I can only see a part of the picture he’s painting” (Steven Curtis Chapman), and I want to grow in my acceptance of this. When I accept that I don’t know best, and that God always knows what he is doing, I can rest and experience peace. 

Hoping to grow in godly wisdom and humility, Torben

Du har hånd om os, kære far i himlen, sidder inde med det store overblik. Og i tillid til, at din omsorg holder, vil vi kaste alt i armene på dig. Herredømmet og magten og æren tilhører dig, tilhører dig far. Herredømmet og magten og æren tilhører i al evighed dig. Du gør, hvad du vil. Du ved, hvad du gør. Du vil os det bedste, du er vores far” a wonderful song written by my dear friend Carsten Almann Levisen (or Calle as I continue to call him 🙂 ). The lyrics go something like this: “Your hand is around us, dear Father in heaven, you always see the big picture. And trusting that your care will last, we will throw everything in your arms. The Lordship, the power and the honor belong to you, belong to you Father. The Lordship, the power and the honor belong to you for all eternity. You do what you want. You know what you do. You want what’s best for us. You are our Father




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