Archive for March, 2009

30
Mar
09

Not about rules

What a wonderful weekend I have just had with fellow staff members from Grace Ministries International and participants at our monthly Grace Life Conference. A weekend of celebrating God’s wonderful grace and the Cross of Christ where Jesus not only won victory over sin and took care of what separated me from God, but he also gave me life! We looked at the wonderful truths from God’s own Word that tells me that my old self (my dead, unregenerate spirit) was crucified and buried with Christ (Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6: 1-7) and how I – the new me, the real me, the new creation (2. Corinthians 5:17) – was resurrected (Romans 6) and is now seated spiritually in Christ right next to God in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

How wonderful to celebrate these life changing truths! I am in Christ and he is in me! And I have become the righteousness of God (2. Corinthians 5:21). I am not just a sinner saved by grace. I am holy, righteous, pure and loved just the way I am! I am safe to be me! I am safe and free to live a life worth living. I have been given the new heart that God promised thousands of years ago in the book of Ezekiel, and I can now trust my heart’s desires, because when I really follow my true heart that’s inhabited by Christ I will ALWAYS follow God’s will for my life! Because God’s will is written on my heart! I have a choice to make: I can choose to walk in the Spirit, walk according to who I really am (Romans 8 ) and experience life, joy, peace and pleasure or I can choose to live as a hypocrite (not living according to who I really am!) and follow my flesh and experience the dissatisfying, frustrating and empty counterfeit existence of Romans 7 and experience death in my experience to others and myself instead of life (Romans 6:23). How wonderful and fun life is when we God reveals to us our true identity and we choose to live true to ourselves!

How wonderful to celebrate that Christianity and life with Christ is not about rules, regulations and gritting your teeth to get through life and serve God in the process! Life with Christ is crazy, wonderful, exciting, passionate and fulfilling and definitely never boring

I love this wonderful and thought provoking quote from Bill Gillham talking about who you are as a child of God:

A new creature in Christ no longer desires, no longer craves to live a sinful life. That’s why Christians find such a life deeply unrewarding. Granted, it feels good to get your needs met, but when you sin to accomplish this, you feel rotten. The reason for this is that God has given us the heart transplant which he prophesied in Ezekiel 36:26-27 and fulfilled in us through our death and re-creation in Christ. This isn’t bypass surgery. He removed that old, lost, rebellious, desperately sick heart and replaced it with a heart of love for him. We must consistently remind ourselves and one another of this fact instead of talking about how “desperately wicked” our heart is. That is the Old Testament description of the unregenerated heart in Jeremiah 17:9

You are free to be you! I am free to be me! I am free to love and live passionately! I thank God that true Christianity has nothing to do with rules, but everything to do with a real life relationship with God!

Hallelujah! Praise God!

Torben – who loved being able to teach again! I felt so alive 🙂

Here is a video with Keith Green’s beautiful love song to God “Oh Lord, You’re beautiful”:

 

 

25
Mar
09

On God’s detours

This may seem like a clear stating the obvious statement, but I have to admit – again – that God and I often disagree about the proper timing of various events in my life. He has his ideas, I have mine, and in the end, since I’m a child of his who desires to follow him, I go with his. I may kick and scream some. But I go with his ideas. He is always right, but I seldom recognize that when it seems I’m on yet another detour instead of the wonderful and bright shortcut that I had found!

I know with all my heart and all my being that God has put a calling in my heart to serve him as a leader and a teacher in the area of discipleship training. That calling has been clear in me these past almost six years. I know that’s what I’m called to do. And I have had my ideas of how to get to a place where I can flow the best in what God has given me to give to other people. God has not agreed with any of my plans so far. His plans to prune me are different. They take a lot longer. They involve more detours. They hurt more than my versions do. I understand that I can only learn humility through humbling experiences and circumstances, and yet it’s been a hard struggle for me – and it still is – to accept when God takes me through these experiences with people and with him where I feel humbled. I know that much pride in me still has to die and that more of my self-sufficiency and flesh have to be replaced by abiding in him and trusting in him as my only resource to draw everything from. I want him to be glorified through what I do, not myself. 

So he has had to send me on different detours. Out in the wilderness. Out in the deserts where water is sparse and life is not easy. It hurts to be out there, and Satan comes to you and starts questioning you and your calling: “did God really say what you thought he said? Is this really what he has called you to do? Certainly you’ll never be a leader and a teacher if you keep going out here in the desert where nobody is here to listen to you“. Maybe he’ll go on to tempt you and say things like: “I know a shortcut to success. I know you want to be a humble leader, but you also need opportunities to prove that you’re good at what you do. You need people to notice you. Come with me, I’ll find you a place where you can get to spread your wings

Don’t listen to Satan. I’ve heard those voices these past 13 months where I haven’t been leading and teaching. I miss leading and teaching. I love doing it. It makes me feel great about myself when I do it! Both from a mere human understanding of doing something I enjoy and find easy and fun, but also because I see God flowing through me the most when I lead and teach.

I am looking forward to this weekend where I will finally get to teach again. Just a couple of hours. Just a little group of less than 15 people. But I am excited about it. I love to teach and lead. It looks like God is about to bring me slowly out from the desert that I feel I’ve been in ministry wise. It looks like he is opening up some doors for me to do more of what I love to do.

I know he’ll do it in his timing and the way he sees it’s best for me. I know he has long term plans with me, and I know he knows how to build my character and make sure I’m ready for the challenges he has for me in the future. 

I am glad that I don’t have to make things happen. I don’t have to promote myself or force anything through. I want to follow Christ’s leading and be a broken cup type of leader that Christ’s life giving and life changing water can flow freely through to impact the people I teach and lead!

So I embrace the fact that it looks like I’m moving very slowly towards some of what I know he has called me to do some day. 

trust

I embrace that I’m on a journey with him, and that for right now he wants me to focus on growing in areas of counseling, listening to people and walking alongside people without teaching them that are not my usual areas of strength. He wants to work through my weaknesses. And in the process of working through my weaknesses, he is also teaching me much that he is gonna use in my teaching and leadership.

I thank God that he is the gardener, his son Jesus Christ is the true vine (John 15), and I’m just a branch where God can bear fruit. I don’t have to make anything happen in my life, calling and ministry. He will do that. In his way. In his timing. He will keep me as broken as he sees I need to be in order for him to do his work through me.

Blessings, Torben

16
Mar
09

If only I would listen…

….to myself!

God reminded me of some of the sentences that I keep saying to other people, but apparently I had forgotten the truth of myself these last few weeks.

If you feel burdened down, it’s because you’re carrying a burden that’s not yours to carry. Remember that Christ promised that his burden is light” I tell this to people when they are trying to fix everything and make sure that everything for everybody is going just the way it ought to according to their standards. I have felt quite burdened by the situation of friends in and outside of church and family members these past few weeks. These are not my burdens to carry! It’s not my job to rescue anybody.

Look at your hands! If you have marks after nails in your hands, it’s your job to save the world and the people in it, but if you don’t have those marks, it’s simply not your job” is another thing that I often say in conversation and teaching. Oh how hard it is for me to let go of my savior complex I want to save everybody! I want to make sure they see the life, freedom, joy and peace that’s only found in Christ! I want it so badly for myself and for other people, and often I forget that it’s all about Christ and what he is doing in me and in other people. He may be doing a work I can’t see right now. He may be (ok…let’s face it: He is!) working on a different time schedule than what I prefer, but as I also say:

God is never late. He is always on time“. That is something I often need to be reminded of. I am often incredibly impatient. I want my life to work out the way I want it now. Not tomorrow. Not in two years. Now! But God knows best. All the time. He is never late. Not in my life, and not in other peoples’ lives. He is always up to something (Romans 8:28-29). And he has promised that he will fulfill the work he has started in each one of his children (Philippians 1:6). He will also be the one to work out the calling he has given me. He will establish the right timing for everything he has promised to take place. 

Surrender to Christ’s leading. He may take you through the valley of the shadow of death or to the still waters (Psalm 23) at this point. It’s up to him. Trust him and allow him to be the Shepherd and you to just be a sheep“. There are definitely times when I fight Christ leading me to places of more brokenness, surrender, humility and not being recognized, understood, chosen or accepted by other people. I have fought him a lot this past month. It hurts. And I don’t want to go there. And yet I know I do. I do want to experience a deeper depth of relationship with Christ. And that takes place when I share in the fellowship of his sufferings (Philippians 3:7-11).

birds

So yep, God was basically reminding me of some of the truths that he has revealed to me and that he has allowed me to share with other people. It’s funny how strange it can feel to be reminded of your own words in this way. But there was a sense of encouragement as well. It was comforting to be reminded of life giving truths. And to see that I am changing and I am becoming more of who I already am in Christ. 

Dan Stone in The Rest Of The Gospel:

I’ve always liked the word awareness more than the word growth. Because what really happens in each of us? Our awareness simply expands. We become more aware of who already was. “Oh, I see more and more of him”. We’re not seeing more and more about him. We’re seeing more and more of him. He is the peace. He is the joy. He is the life. He is the love

Torben – who is glad that he can be teaching himself in a roundabout way 🙂

16
Mar
09

No need for change

We’ve been singing a worship song at church that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. The line is meant as a prayer to God and goes like this: “we need Your presence to change who we are“. That line has been nagging me for weeks now. Because in fact this statement is not true. Or at least it’s not true in the way that I understand it.

It’s true for non-believers that they need God and his presence to change who they are. They are sinners. They are born sinners as descendants of the first sinner, Adam, even before they commit a single sin (Romans 5: 18-19). This is who they are. They are sinners who unfortunately are on their way to Hell, unless they surrender to God and his miracle of taking them through a re-birth where they are born again (John 3) as somebody brand new: a saint! One of God’s children! A holy person!

That is already the reality for all believers. We don’t need God’s presence to change who we are. We are already holy, blameless, righteous in God’s sight. We are new creations. The old identity (sinner) is gone, the new identity (saint) is a reality today, whether we know that and live in that wonderful piece of truth or not!

Paul in 2. Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

and in 2. Corinthians 6:16 “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people

Could we be the temple of God if there was something wrong with us? Could the holy God live in an unholy temple? Absolutely not! We are holy, pure, blameless, righteous. In fact, as Hebrews 10:14 “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy“. We have been made perfect! That is the truth of us. The latter part of the verse talks about “being made holy”. That’s the process of sanctification. That’s the process of Christ within us starting to make real in our soul (personality, mind, emotions, will) and in our body (the five senses, our earth suit) what is already true in our spirits: we are holy and righteous, because we have received the gift of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:17).

Hallelujah that the job is done! There is nothing wrong with me! Let me quote the last part of Aaron Keyes’ amazing song Not Guilty Anymore where he sings about us as God’s children:

You are spotless. You are holy. You are faultless. You are whole. You are righteous. You are blameless. You are pardoned. You are mine“.

This may sound like heresy to some. This may sound too good to be true. But it is the truth of God’s own Word!

And here a few quotes from one of my favorite books, The Rest of the Gospel, where the author Dan Stone points to the same truths I’ve been trying to explain in this blog entry:

“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)

Torben – who realizes that we need God to change us more into who we already are, but I can’t accept the sentence that we need to be fundamentally changed as children of God. That change already took place!

10
Mar
09

John Deere

800px-johndeered

wyley

One of our many adorable little nephews here in Ohio is young Wyley (whom I’m holding in the picture above) who is a year and a half. He has a very interesting love affair going on. He is madly in love with anything that is green with a little bit of yellow and that carries the name JOHN DEERE on it. Or Don Deere as he calls it.

Every single day several times each day Wyley watches a delightful video called All About John Deere. It is an hour packed with lots of info about these tractors and with songs that will forever be in your brain whether you want them to or not. 

The first words I hear every day when I wake up is Wyley who walks around humming his mantra: “Don Deere….Don Deere…..Don Deere….Don Deere…..” while he points to all his John Deere mini tractors or just stands at the window looking longingly out at the garage he knows is the storage place for his daddy’s garden tractor, which is, of course, a John Deere.

After his nap where he sleeps with at least one John Deere tractor in his bed Wyley comes up and chants: “Don Deere….Don Deere….Don Deere….“.

jdtractordubia7800

It’s so cute, and what a delightful thing to be madly in love with 🙂

Torben

09
Mar
09

Like little children

Jesus said that unless we become like little children we would never enter his kingdom (Matthew 18:3-4). I am surrounded by little children these days as we visit all our little nephews in the wonderful state of Ohio. 

There is a four year old with big ideas and lots of wit, a three year old who copy all the four year old does, two boys who will soon enter the terrible twos and who just want to play with their food and eat mud, and little baby boys who demand attention, time on the bouncy ball and a constant flow of food and sleep to be satisfied. 

Little children who all have some things in common: they are dependent, they are more or less helpless when it comes to any situation that’s just a bit complicated, they have no understanding of time, they don’t understand the recession that’s going on any more than most adults do, they are filled with trust, they are convinced that their parents in general and their Daddy in particular can take care of any situation and solve any problem, they love freely, they express their emotions without any restrains, they are self centered and need discipline in order to not grow up and be terrible, narcissistic adults, they are soft at heart and though they are easily hurt they are also very capable of forgiving quickly and not holding grudges.

I am a child too. I am self centered, I am dependent, I am needy, I am incapable of solving difficult situations, I am learning to express my emotions more freely, I am learning to become free to be who I am, I am learning to keep my heart soft and open and not shut it down the way most adults do, I am learning to love freely and forgive quickly. Many things I have had to re-learn these past years.

I thank God that he just wants me to be a little child. I thank him that  he doesn’t expect me to be wise and strong and capable in my own strength. He wants me to need him. And I do. Every day. I don’t have to muster up love, acceptance, forgiveness, interest in other people, and patience. He is all that for me. In me. And through me.

I thank you Abba, that all you want me to be is your son, Torben. And I thank you that it’s actually pretty easy to just be me.

Torben




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