Archive for September, 2008

29
Sep
08

Bumper sticker wisdom

I’m now a permanent resident of the world leader when it comes to bumper stickers. Some have one, some have a few, others have 25 on the back of their vehicles. I enjoy reading them laughing at some. Many of them are silly. Some are pretty lame. And a few of them are hilarious. And then there is the minority that are thought provoking and contain (often unintended) wisdom and truth. 

Malcolm Smith, an excellent speaker who teaches about the truths of grace and life in Christ, talked about a bumper sticker which read:

LOOKING FOR LOVE, WILL SETTLE FOR SEX!

This was meant as a fun joke saying that sex is really what life is all about. But the bumper sticker points to a deep truth about all of us as people. All the earth’s 6.6 billion people are looking for something. All of us, no matter our skin color, culture, family, social status or language. We are looking for love, acceptance, worth, security and significance. All of us. Either we find it in the originator of all of these needs, God, or we try to find it in each other, in material things, in career achievements, in popularity and people pleasing, in being a doormat to your spouse, in drugs, alcohol, in serving at church even when you should learn to say no…whatever your particular drug of choice may be..!

And when we don’t find it in each other or in stuff, we do one of two things: either we cry out to God who will then in turn show us that nobody and nothing was ever meant to meet those needs, or we settle for some substitute. 

It’s true for all of us. When we don’t find love in God who is love (1. John 4:16), we settle. We may settle for sex, as the sticker suggest. Sex is God’s invention, and it’s safe, wonderful, fun, and fulfilling when it takes place within the covenant relationship of marriage. Outside of marriage it always comes with a price tag attached to it. There are hangovers to go through, and negative fruit to be reaped when we sow to our flesh in stead of living in the Spirit. 

We may settle for something else than sex. But if we don’t find who we are in Christ, we will settle. And countless people have settled so often that they barely know that they do it anymore. God needs to bring revelation of our lostness and lack of life without him. What’s sad is that many people are believing the lies of Satan, the prince of this world. If we try hard enough, we’ll be okay…If we medicate the pain, we’ll be okay and nobody will know…If we don’t tell anybody, we don’t have to face the reality of our own lostness… If we keep the music and the TV high and running at all times, we may never be quiet enough to face the pain that’s in our lives…

I pray that God will always show me when I’m settling, and when I don’t find life in him, but settle for substitutes.

Blessings, Torben

28
Sep
08

Not just a sinner saved by grace!

Another eventful and packed week of the nine weeks of Exchanged Life training is well over. We were told at the beginning that at times it would feel like we very drinking water from a fire hose these weeks. It’s intense and hard at times, but incredibly rich. I was smiling about it the other day after we had just had three hours of teaching about the first 19 verses in Romans chapter 5. Three hours to sit and wrestle with the richness of what God through Paul’s writings revealed first to the first century church in Rome, and now to a group of three Americans, two Bulgarians and a Dane in a classroom in Marietta, Georgia. 

I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to do these nine weeks. It’s a rich experience to sit and share and hear other people be transparent without any masks or pretenses. The truth is being shared. The truth about pain, hurts, good times, bad times, exciting times, and times when we have encountered The Truth of Jesus Christ in our lives. It’s holy ground when somebody shares directly from their hearts. And I feel honored to sit with this group day in and day out and be allowed to be real. 

This week has been a roller coaster ride with extremes of coming home Wednesday and yelling and even cursing at God (trust me, he much prefers raw honesty which sometimes includes very bad words to religious “we have to sugar coat what we say to God, or else he might get hurt or his throne might break”-thinking) to a sense of quiet peace of just sitting with God without an agenda, without expecting anything and just allow him to be God and me to be his son. I still have much to learn in the area of God being my heavenly, perfect father. That’s definitely one of the big themes of these first couple of weeks. God wants to correct my misconceptions of him as a father, and he wants me to not just know, but also experience the truth about him as my father. He wants me to know him not just at an intellectual and theological level, but also at an emotional level. God is a God who created us as three part beings with a spirit, a soul, and a body, and he wants us to encounter him at all three levels. 

I really enjoyed the truths that were shared from Romans chapter 5-8 this week. These chapters are so rich and so stockpiled with truth, that even though we spent nine hours talking about them, we’ve only scratched the surface. I love the book of Romans for the clarity that Paul brings to what it looks like to live like God’s child, and how he shows how frustrating life is when you, even as a believer, yield to the evil desires of your flesh that always bring death. 

How important it is to understand for a believer that we are new creations (2. Corinthians 5:17). We are free from the law. Jesus fulfilled the law. We are free from the law, and we don’t have to submit to our flesh and Satan’s desires any more. We can walk in the Spirit (Romans 8 ) which simply means living out of who we are as opposed to living out of who we are not any more (Romans 7 describes very well the experience of countless Christians who don’t know who they are in Christ, or just don’t live out of their true identity, and who try to live a Christian life in their own strength and end up frustrated and tired). It’s a question of seeing your identity and life in Christ, and living out of who you truly are.

All sociologists agree that we live from what we perceive to be true about ourselves. If you as a child of God see yourself as: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace” you will live your life with your head down and very rarely, if ever at all, experience the abundant life that Christ promises to his followers (John 10). If you get to see the truth of the New Testament that you’re not a sinner any more if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. You may sin occasionally, but that doesn’t change your identity as a saint. You’re a child of God. You’re a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8). You’re perfect in your Spirit, which is who you truly are (Hebrews 10:14). This is not bragging. This is the truth from God’s own word about who those who are in Christ Jesus truly are. There is life, freedom and joy here!

I could write much more, but I will call it a day for now. I sense that God is up to something very interesting in me these weeks. He is touching on some areas in my belief systems about who he is and areas of my relationship with him and significant others where I sense there is still pain. But he is always gentle, and he always only brings up as much as he knows I’m ready for. How wonderful it is to know that God always knows exactly what he is doing, even when it doesn’t feel great. He has given me many challenges this past week, and I’m still thinking about several of them. How good it is to know that God won’t get mad at me, if I’m not ready to go even deeper with him at this point in some of these areas. He is patient, and will keep calling on me and wait until I’m ready for more life in him. 

I enjoy the safety of sharing life with my new friends at Grace Ministries International. How rich it is to journey together on our individual journeys with God. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what this next week will bring!

Blessings, Torben

21
Sep
08

Arsène knows and God knows!

This past week has been a challenging and interesting experience. We kicked of the nine weeks of learning about who we are in Christ by going on a retreat to a wonderful location in a forest out in the middle of nowhere. We are six interns doing these nine weeks together, and we have a group of 5-7 discipleship counselors that journey with us as we get to know more about what it looks like when Christ lives his life through us, and how we can help other people see these wonderful and life changing truths.

For me this week was the beginning of what I titled heavenly CPR. It really did feel like my heart had grown cold and semi-dead, and I was in desperate need of God to start waking up my heart again. And God is the master surgeon. He knows what I need, when I need it, and how he needs to get to me. During the first few days I really got in touch with some heavy emotions. Many tears were cried, many questions to God were raised, and I did come to the point of thinking: “why don’t I just run away from this, this is too hard, and it’s not gonna help anything anyway”. But I know that I know that I know that I know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and with Peter I just have to cry out: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68).

And I know that God knows how to get to my heart and clear out the lies that I’ve been believing about him, about myself and about other people. God is clever and patient. He knows we can’t handle everything all at once, so he takes on a journey with him. It’s a process where God wants to bring further healing to places that have hurt us. It does hurt. Make no mistake, but it’s still good. And it’s still God answering my prayer asking him to experience life in him. Life with him may not be easy, but it’s good and fulfilling.

Someone might wonder why there is a picture of a somewhat stern looking gentleman accompanying this post. And I will try to explain what the relevance of Mr. Arsène Wenger is to this post. Arsenal Football Club is one of England’s and Europe’s biggest football (soccer that is) clubs. Wenger is known to be fairly unique among the top managers in England. He is known to hardly ever spend the big sums of money that all the other top clubs spend on players. Instead Wenger prefers to find random, well-hidden, talented youngsters all over Europe and in Africa and groom them into top class players over time. Before each season Wenger is accused of not buying the needed players, but among us Arsenal fans a saying has developed over the last many years. It’s two simple words: “Arsène knows“. With those few words all confidence is put in Wenger’s abilities to make the team both play beautiful football, but also to succeed and finally win some trophies.

God used those two words to speak to me Thursday evening, when I was lying in bed pondering what I should be talking about on Friday where we were all supposed to share something about what God had been doing in us throughout the week. I was tired, frustrated, angry and lonely, and God spoke to me through something as trivial as a manager of a football club – he’s got a good sense of humor, God, and he knows how to get to all of us, also an Arsenal fan 🙂

God gently reminded me that he knows. God knows. God knows best. God knows what I want. He knows I want more life in him. He knows I’m not satisfied with crumbs from the table. I want it all. I want life, peace, security in Christ. I want Christ to live his life through me and change the world one person at a time through me. Not because of me or because of who I am, but because I surrender to Christ and allow him to live his life through me.

God knows. He really does know best. And even though I left the week with many questions and much confusion in my heart, I also left it with a sense of peace knowing that God knows. He knows me. He knows how he can best transform me more into what he wants me to be. So I surrender to him. I surrender to his wisdom and knowledge. I surrender to the fact that he is in control, even when I don’t see it or feel it.

God is good, and God knows what I need these next seven weeks of intense discipleship training.

Blessings, Torben – who hopes that the reader understands that even though I do admire Arsène Wenger, I’m not in any way comparing him with God! Wenger was just the means that God used to speak to me this week 🙂

13
Sep
08

My eyes are dry

Finally! This Monday my nine week advanced exchanged life training program starts. Check out Grace Ministries International’s website for more info about what that is. Or just log on to this blog site, where I’ll be writing about what I learn and experience.

It’s been weird looking at myself these past few weeks. I feel so dry. I feel so empty in many ways. And ironically enough I think that means that I’m in the perfect place to start these nine weeks. I certainly don’t come with a sense of having “arrived”, thinking that I know all this stuff about identity in Christ and having Christ living his life through me. I don’t. It’s still all very new and fresh to me. I’m hungry. Very hungry. And thirsty to taste the life giving water of Christ that I’ve tasted some of before. I want more. More life. More intimacy with my friend and Savior, Jesus Christ. I want to know him more. I want to die to my flesh and my own ideas of who he is and who I am. I want to step away from the lies that I still believe about who God is. I want to know and experience the truth of who God is. 

For the third time in my life I feel like I have all my eggs in one basket. If this fails, if God doesn’t show up, I don’t have a plan B. Because I know this is it. I know this is where life is. And every other time I’ve been without a plan B, God has shown up in incredible ways. And I know he’ll do the same this time. I know he wants me more than I want him. I know he loves to reveal who he is, and I know he’ll be faithful to complete the good work he has begun in me (Philippians 1:6). I’m excited to see where my Good Shepherd will take me these next nine weeks. I expect both the valley of the shadow of death where I die to me and get to experience Jesus’ life as a reality in my life. Those valleys are dark and lonely places, but Psalm 23 promises me that he will go there with me, so I’m not afraid. And I know there’ll be places of rest where he’ll restore my soul as it’s also promised in that wonderful Psalm.

For now I’ll leave you with this great live recording of Keith Green singing the song “My eyes are dry” which I’ve been singing many, many times the past week. Such good lyrics, where the conclusion to Keith’s (and my) poor state of mind is not to try harder on my own, but to invite God to soften my heart, and bring life. I want a soft heart, but only God can do that.

My eyes are dry, my faith is old. My heart is hard, my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to you and dead to me. But what can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine. The oil is you, your Spirit of love. Please wash me anew with the wine of your blood

Blessings, Torben

03
Sep
08

Jesus doesn’t give up on me

The title on this blog entry points to a great wonder and miracle. It’s easy for me to give up on other people. I see friends, family members, acquaintances, celebrities and my next door neighbor repeat negative life patterns, and I judge them, and I’m tempted to give up on them. They’ll never change anyway, I think to myself…It’s also very easy for me to give up on myself. I have done that many times. And today I feel like giving up on myself again. I don’t get all this identity in Christ stuff that I talk about, write about and dream about really getting. I just don’t at this point. I have scratched the surface of some amazing truths, but I have not allowed it to take as much root in my life, as I had hoped for. Today I heard some other people talk about having Christ live his life through them, and they spoke with a confidence and a sense of security and understanding, that I simply cannot muster up this Wednesday in the beginning of September 2008. So I’m tempted to give up on myself. I’ll never get it. I’ll never truly learn to allow Christ to live his life through me. I’ll never truly learn to be satisfied no matter what the circumstances may be. I’ll never find the perfect fit for me ministry vice. Other people do and that’s great for them, but I won’t. I’ll never be able to stop worrying a lot.

And so the thoughts go…and I’m tempted to give up on myself. I picked up Brennan Manning’s book “The Signature of Jesus” that I secretly borrowed from my parents-in-law’s bookshelf (don’t worry, I’ll give it back!). I didn’t feel like reading it, but I had to do something pro-active to stop the downward spiral of giving up on myself and feeling sorry for myself. Unfortunately those two feelings live in the same neighborhood and like to hang out together.

I read this simple quote which brought a smile to my face, and reminded me that no matter where I’m at, what I feel, what I do or don’t do or what ever my circumstances may be or feel like, one thing is for sure: Jesus does not give up on me! His patience with me never stops. Hallelujah that my relationship with him is not dependent on my stability, but on who he is.

Personally, I take great comfort in the life stories of the first disciples. Their response was flawed by fear and hesitation. What they shared in common was dullness, an embarrassing inability to understand what Jesus was all about. Their track record was not good: They complained, they misunderstood, they quarreled, they wavered, they deserted, they denied. Christ’s reaction to their broken, inconsistent discipleship was one of unending love. The good news is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” 

Blessings, Torben – who thanks God that he has taught him much about patience, but realizes that there still are many, many lessons to be learned in that area….




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