Archive for May, 2009

24
May
09

Danish Champions!!

Yeah!! A wonderful football week where F.C.København (F.C. Copenhagen) won both the Danish cup title, and today, the Danish championship is over! Here are a bunch of pictures from the beautiful day in Esbjerg 🙂

santinCésar Santín after he scored the decisive goal from the penalty spot

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Grønkjær

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…and I believe the rest of the pictures speak for themselves! 🙂

JAAAAAAAA!!!! The Double!!

Torben – who is looking forward to seeing what F.C.København can do in Champions League next season!

22
May
09

The Prodigal God

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The well-known story in Luke 15 about the son who tells his dad that he wants his share of the inheritance, and goes off and wastes all of it away living la vida loca, before he decides to return to his father’s house and offer his services as a servant since he’s convinced he has lost all privileges as a son, only to find that his father runs towards him, embraces him and re-instates him as his son is often titled The Prodigal Son. I’ve often wondered what that word prodigal means, and this week I found out that really the story should be titled The Prodigal Father, or maybe The Prodigal God.

Prodigal means: “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”

While you can say that the son who goes away does spend his money in reckless way, I believe the point of the story is that the father is the one who is prodigal towards his son. He is generous to a fault. He is generous, forgiving, and accepting far beyond the call of duty. For a son to walk up to his dad and say that he wanted the inheritance was the same as saying: “I wish you were dead!“. Nobody in the first audience who heard Jesus tell the story would have expected the dad to ever forgive that. Everybody would have agreed that the father was in his full right to forget about that son and never have anything to do with him again no matter what excuses he may come up with at a later time. Wishing your father dead was the ultimate insult, and no patriarch in a family should have to forgive that.

But the father does forgive, and God does forgive us and takes us back and celebrates our return no matter how disgusting we look and feel when we decide to return to him. No matter what type of mud and how much we have wallowed in it, he runs to us and embraces us, and says: “forget about your explanations and apologies, all is already forgiven, let’s celebrate that you’re back where you belong!

That’s our prodigal God. He is more generous than anybody could ever expect. Even though we all like sheep have gone astray each to our own way (Isaiah 53:6), Jesus is still the good shepherd who is always out searching for us, calling us by name, loving us back to him (John 10) One of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey, in his wonderful book What’s So Amazing About Grace reflects on the scene from Luke 15 where Jesus talks about himself as the shepherd going out looking for one lost sheep: “[This is] a noble deed, but reflect for a moment on the underlying arithmetic. Jesus says the shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep ‘in the country,’ which presumably means they were vulnerable to rustlers, wolves, or a feral desire to bolt free. How would the shepherd feel if he returned with the one lost lamb slung across his shoulders only to find twenty-three others now missing?”

God’s grace is shocking. If you think of God’s grace as something that makes sense, you are not thinking about God’s grace. God’s grace is prodigal. God’s grace is unreasonable. God’s grace doesn’t make sense at all.

Philip Yancey once wrote an article called “The Atrocious Mathematics of Grace”. This is from What’s So Amazing About Grace where he talks about why God’s grace is prodigal:

“From childhood we are taught how to succeed in the world of ungrace. “You get what you pay for.” “The early bird gets the worm. “No pain, no gain.” I know these rules well because I live by them. I work for what I earn; I like to win; I insist on my rights. I want people to get what they deserve.

But Jesus’ parables about grace teach a radically different concept. In Matthew 18, no one could accumulate a debt as huge as the servant did (vv. 23-24). This underscores the point. The debt is unforgivable. Nevertheless, the master let the servant off scot-free.

The more I reflect on Jesus’ parables proclaiming grace, the more tempted I am to apply the word atrocious to describe the mathematics of the gospel. I believe Jesus gave us these stories to call us to step completely outside our tit-for-tat world of ungrace and enter into God’s realm of infinite grace.

If I care to listen, I hear a loud whisper from the gospel that I did not get what I deserved. I deserved punishment and got forgiveness. I deserved wrath and got love. I deserved debtor’s prison and got instead a clean credit history. I deserved stern lectures and crawl-on-your knees repentance. Instead, I got a banquet spread for me.

In What’s So Amazing About Grace Yancey recalls the furious reactions he got from Christians after daring to call the mathematics of grace atrocious. But it is atrocious, it makes no sense. It does mess with our concepts of right and wrong. It’s not fair or reasonable that God should forgive all the sins I’ve ever done. It’s not fair or reasonable that he has said that there is never going to be any condemnation (Romans 8:1) towards somebody who has put their faith in Christ, no matter what I say, think or do the rest of my life. It’s not fair that you get the same reward, life with him, no matter if you have lived a moral life or you’ve wasted your life doing stupid and selfish stuff. It’s not fair…..but it’s good. It’s wonderful. It’s truth. It’s prodigal!

I have sensed a lot of God’s prodigal love for me these past few years. This summer I see another little example of his extravagant way of spending his resources. A friend of ours have invited us to go and visit him in Greenland. We didn’t need a trip to Greenland, but both Jeannette and I feel that God just gave us that trip just to show his extravagant love. He doesn’t just give us what we need, he loves to shower great things on us, just because he can, and just because he loves to see a big smile on our faces. He loves to show off. Like any good dad he loves to bless us abundantly just because we are his. Our friend has paid the whole trip for us, and he put his attitude to the money spent this way: “the money is God’s, but for practical reasons it’ll come out of my bank account”. What a wonderful way to look at finances, or any other blessing God has given us!

I love that I know, love and get to serve the prodigal God who loves to bless us abundantly just because we are his and he is being himself! No other reason. Just love. 

Blessings, Torben

Here is Philipps, Craig and Dean’s beautiful When God Ran that talks about The Prodigal God:

19
May
09

Svensk Pølseret

(Sorry…this blog entry will not make any sense to people who are not up-to-date with Danish football (soccer) 🙂 )

Jeg har ingen ord at tilføje til denne smukke produktion med d’herrer Max von Schlebrügge og Jon Jönsson som hovedrolleindehavere og Aílton José Almeida som skarpretteren efter de kære svenskere havde sat scenen:

Jeg synes da lige, vi skulle have resten af målene med også!

 

Velbekomme 🙂

Torben – der havde en fin søndag!

15
May
09

Life without shame

I started writing this blog entry back in August 2008, and for some reason I felt like I was reminded of it as I was listening to Delirious?’ powerful song Our God Reigns in the car this morning. So here it is….

For some reason that I can’t explain the issue of abortions and the shame that comes with having an abortion has been on my mind the last few weeks. I have been searching the internet and have found many different articles related to my search on “abortions + shame”. I found some different articles from women furiously arguing that they have experienced NO SHAME AT ALL in connection with their abortions. Obviously those articles had different comments from women yelling: “yeah sister, I agree, I feel the same way” and others who thought it more appropriate to condemn the woman who wrote the article. 

I also searched information about post-abortion-syndrome which is debated by various people. Some say it’s something pro-life people have made up to shame people. Others argue that post-abortion-traumas exist the same way post-war-syndromes and post-traffic-accidents-traumas obviously do. 

I felt a sadness looking at many of these pages, and I still do. To me it’s a given that having a living human being, albeit a very little one, removed from your body will obviously be a huge trauma to your body, soul and spirit and will continue to affect you the rest of your life unless you experience forgiveness and have the wound of shame and regret healed. 

I know that there are many people in the world who are far removed from a Biblical understanding of the value of human life. I have lived the last 2,5 years in Ukraine where there are more abortions than births each year. It’s a tragedy. 

 

Real freedom brings no shame

Freedom people call it. Freedom to choose. Freedom to choose over your own body. Just the other day I heard American Presidential candidate Barack Obama (who is now the President of the United States) live on TV (August 16, 2008 in a debate with Senator John McCain hosted by Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church, California) state that he was pro-choice, because as he put it: “I came to that conclusion not because I am pro-abortion, but because ultimately I don’t think women make these decisions casually. They struggle with these decisions profoundly“. Hmmm…that seems like a stating the obvious statement from Obama. Obviously the vast majority of women who have abortions think about it a long time before they make their decision to go for it. That, however, doesn’t make it right. The problem is, obviously, that the women’s choices affect other people. We’re not talking about a fat suction or other kinds of plastic surgery here. Those choices only affect yourself. The choice to have an abortion is unique, because by making the choice to have an abortion, you make a choice on somebody else’s behalf, the baby inside of you, to not be able to live. 

I feel terribly sorry for the women who have ended up where they have what they label an unwanted baby inside of them. But the choice to kill the baby is simply not their choice to make. There are many people wanting to adopt children. There are many families who would love to shower love on a baby even with severe handicaps. There are many other options than abortions, but the tragedy is that many pregnant women are not told about these options by the social authorities in our so-called civilized countries. A lot of women are told that having an abortion is their only choice.

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The truth is that real freedom is without hangovers. Real freedom is without shame. Real freedom brings life to myself and to other people around me. Real freedom is only to be found in a life without shame and regrets. 

I know some people will read this and think it’s arrogant of me to seem to postulate that I know better than women who claim they experience no shame in connection with abortions they’ve had. Some people also claim that it really is super-fun, freeing and exciting to go from girl to girl or guy to guy, and live la vida loca. It’s not the truth though. Some people realize this, and regret their actions. Some people never realize it because they manage to have so much noise around them at all times that they never get a chance to listen to their lives. People tell each other that doing whatever they feel like is the road to happiness, and many walk that road. It doesn’t make it true, however, no matter how many people repeat the lie. There are still hangovers, regrets, and shame down the path of self-fulfillment and self-realization.

 

Universal truths and blind spots

These are universal truths. Killing will always bring guilt. Promiscuity will always bring guilt. Homosexuality lived out brings guilt. Drunkenness will always bring guilt. Lying, cheating, stealing bring guilt. You may not be consciously aware of it at this stage in your life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there. All this brings guilt because it’s against God’s will. C. S. Lewis talked about how all people have a certain level of understanding of what’s right and wrong just because they are created beings, created in the image of God. They may reject God, but the universal law of morality, as Lewis talked about, is still in them, and that’s why people who don’t even know God or agree that his commandments are relevant to them still feel guilt when they break his commandments. Read more about Lewis’ teachings here.

And here it’s important to stress the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says: you did something wrong!, shame says: there is something wrong with you! Many people face guilt and don’t know what to do with it and never see that Jesus came to set them free from guilt. Instead they are bogged down by it in the style of Will Smith’s character in the movie Seven Pounds. Satan uses peoples’ unconfessed and toxic guilt and turns it into an attack on the person’s very identity. That is how shame develops. Satan has managed to convince you that there is something wrong with you, and that there is no hope for you. You are defect and beyond repair. But of course Satan is cunning and tells you that at least you could try harder….if only you try harder maybe you would feel better about yourself….or if you give up completely, shut down your heart and pretend you don’t have shame issues, then maybe they’ll go away….But as always Satan never lives up to what he promises! 

“How arrogant can you be….how dare you say that about other people….?!”. The truth is that we all have blind spots. There is really nothing strange about the fact that it’s often easier for me to see how other peoples’ lives are going and where their choices are taking them. It’s normal that it’s easier for me to see others’ blind spots than my own. I have many blind spots. I need people to show them to me. And first and foremost I need God to touch my shoulder, turn me around and show me what my choices in life mean to me and to other people that I affect. 

Worldwide there are approximately 40 million abortions each year. We live in countries where shame is abundant. The shame that comes with abortions, with sexual assaults, with promiscuity, incest, murder, rape, pornography, greed, selfishness, etc. There are whole cultures based on shame. Just look at a country like Japan where very few people who go to jail end up back in jail. Why? Because their families and friends completely desert them and won’t have anything to do with the criminal. The criminal is shamed by everybody and most people will do whatever it takes to not end up in prison a second time. 

 

Becoming conscious of your shame

Shame is, according to my dictionary, “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior” and “a loss of respect and esteem“. Shame attacks the essence of who I am. Shame tells me that there is something wrong with me. Shame is what you feel when you are outside of God’s best will for your life, and you don’t have right relationship with him. It dates back to the very first people, Adam and Eve, who ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, became aware of the fact that they were naked and decided to cover themselves and hide from God (Genesis 3). Satan told them that there was something intrinsically wrong with them, and they bought into the lie and they fell under the curse of shame. 

The key word is “consciousness”. Many people don’t understand why they feel like crap (pardon my French!), because they are not conscious of the wrong doings they have done. They know they feel shame and pain, but they don’t know why. The first step to healing is therefore a very painful one: becoming conscious! Owning up to what I’ve done. Calling things by their right name instead of minimizing what I’ve done or calling it something that makes me feel more comfortable.

This is also the stage where we stop making excuses: “everybody else does it“, “I didn’t do it on purpose“, “He/she/society/my family/God/circumstances/chance/fate/whatever made me do it“. We use these excuses to dull the pain we feel. But the problem is that they don’t work. It’s also time to step away from the voice of self-pity that so many of us are familiar with: “how could anyone let this happen to me?“, “how could God let this happen to me?“, “I am the victim here!” These may be feelings you have, and they may feel justified, but they don’t bring life. 

 

The shame healer

Time heals all wounds” many people say. It’s a lie. Time has never and will never heal a single wound. Time can only help you not focus so frequently on the wrong that has happened to you or the wrong you’ve done. But an unhealed wound is filled with bacteria, and will at some point break out and cause you pain again, and again, and again. That’s the way life is. And again: it doesn’t really matter whether you believe in God or not, this is a universal principle. 

There is only one who can take away shame. And it’s not me. And it’s not you. Many try to get rid of shame along the barren path of self-analysis and self-improvement. They stroll along this well-worn path and don’t even notice all the corpses next to the path. Self-improvement will never remove shame. I can’t take shame away from myself, and I can’t take shame away from anybody else. 

Jesus took my shame away when he died on the cross. And since I died with him (Galatians 2:20), my shame is also gone. Satan wants to hold me captured, and he tries to convince me that I’m not clean and perfect and white, but filthy, someone to be ashamed of and unworthy. 

There is hope for all of us no matter what we’ve done. There is forgiveness, hope and a life without shame. When you’re in Christ the truth is that all shame, guilt and condemnation is gone for you (Romans 8:1)! I’m experiencing more and more of it, and I’m loving it. But there is no life without shame of some kind outside of Jesus Christ. People may say it exists. And they may try to believe that diligently. But that doesn’t make it true. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). And either he is all truth and life or he isn’t any at all. Don’t get sucked in by post-modern, relativistic nonsense saying that we all have some part of the truth. Test that idea of truth and examine if there is any life in it. There isn’t.

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I know many people who have seen this truth in their own life. They have experienced Jesus take away the shame of having had abortions, having committed adultery, having engaged in homosexual relationships. It can become a reality for anybody who chooses to come to Jesus with all their shame and regrets. Jesus is here for anybody who freely chooses to come to him and accept that it doesn’t work for me to fix myself. 

I dream of more churches becoming aware of the shame-filled world we live in. I hope that more churches and more church groups will realize that we need to help people address their shame. We need to help them through the process of coming to healing and life in Jesus Christ. I am so thankful that there already are many different groups of Christians doing wonderful work with women contemplating abortions. There are also many Christians involved in helping women walk through the trauma and experience healing after they have chosen to have an abortion. But as a worldwide church we need a greater awareness of the reality of our world. We need to see shame for what it is – the hardest and most life devastating feelings you can have! And we need to point friends, family members and other people we encounter to the only one who can help them get rid of their shame. 

Blessings, Torben – who still doesn’t have any idea why he has gotten himself into the mine field of talking about abortions, shame, etc…….

40 million babies lost to God’s great orphanage. It’s a modern day genocide. And a modern day disgrace. If this is a human right, then why aren’t we free. The only freedom we have is in a man nailed to a tree” (Delirious?, Our God Reigns)

Our God Reigns:

11
May
09

Fire Ants

I simply had to post this terribly funny video to my blog. It’s very dark humor, and some of you, dear readers, might not appreciate it, but I do get a lot of laughter out of it 🙂

The song is called Fire Ants, and I believe the video speaks for itself. The crazy man behind the song is a gentleman by the name of Tim Hawkins

Torben=strange humor at times

07
May
09

What crowns do we lay down?

It struck me as we were singing Chris Tomlin’s beautiful worship song “We Fall Down” in church a few weeks ago that unless you know who you are in Christ, the idea of laying down your crown in front of Jesus may occur a little weird to you. What crown? Do I have a crown? I don’t look at myself as royalty, so I don’t think I have anything to neither wear on my head nor to lay down…?

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The lyrics to the simple song are taken from Revelation 4:10-11 where we can read about the 24 elders in Heaven laying down their crowns in front of God as a token of respect, humility and submission before they worship him as being the true king and God.

I love the verses from 1. Peter 2:9-10 that talk about who we are as children of God:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy

The children of God are God’s chosen people. We are priests. We are a holy, set apart group of people. We share Christ’s royalty! Christ is the eternal king, and Christ shares his glory with us. We are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), who is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and since we share in all who Christ is (Colossians 3:3, Ephesians 1:3) we are also princes of Heaven. We have crowns we can lay down today! These are not realities that will only be true when we die and go to Heaven. These are realities for today, May 7, 2009! We can accept that when we are in Christ, God has put a crown on our heads. We can look in the mirror and accept the verdict that our the Spirit of God testifies about us: “you are holy, you are righteous, you are royalty! You are not a sinner anymore! When you’re in Christ, you’re a Prince!

And we can rejoice in the fact that we have become sons and daughters, and princes and princesses of the Almighty and Sovereign God and in humble submission to him, we can choose to lay down our crowns in front of him and worship him freely already now, because we know that everything we have and everything we are is because of God and God alone!

Here is a video with the song We Fall Down:

Blessings, Torben

07
May
09

Cute knitted things for sale :-)

When you live on financial support from churches, family members and friends you have to get creative at times if you need a little extra money now and then. My dear wife, Jeannette, is a creative soul, and I thought I would post some pictures of some of the knitted animals and dolls you can buy from her, if you are interested. They all make great little Christmas-, birthday-, baby shower-, whatever gifts, or maybe you just want one or two for your own home/children/office. They are very hard to tear apart proven by the fact that our four year old nephew, Toby, who has three younger brothers still plays with the knitted cowboy Jeannette made him three years ago!

If you are interested in buying any of these knitted friends, just email Jeannette at roselemon7@hotmail.com and tell her what you would like and in what colors.

All prices are valid from June 22, 2009

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These adorable mice are $15 (90 DKK) each 

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The little ducklings are $8 (48 DKK) each img_21501n659430383_6757680_1837220

Elephants – boy or girl – are $15 (90 DKK) each 

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A very creative wedding gift! This frog couple is $25 (150 DKK)

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These well-dressed bunnies are $12 (72 DKK) each

img_2146Mr. Duck with an elegant hat is $10 (60 DKK)

img_03111Shepherd girl, drummer, baker, nurse – each measures around 7 inches (18 cm) excluding the hats- $20 (120 DKK) each

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Another creative and beautiful wedding present – 7 inches (18 cm) tall excluding the hat – this elegant couple with many beautiful details is $45 (270 DKK)

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This clown, who holds a banner with whatever name you want, is $20 (120 DKK) (7 inches/18 cm excl. the hat)

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T-Rex and Bronto are $10 (60 DKK) each

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This cute little dino is $10 (60 DKK)

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Baby doll is $12 (60 DKK)

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Whales are $8 (48 DKK) each

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…and finally this beauty of a doll that comes in whatever colors you want for just $45 (270 DKK). She is 12 inches/29 cm. tall.(Due to many knitting orders at this point, it’s only possible to order this particular doll, which is bigger and takes a lot of time, for delivery in the beginning of 2010).

Jeannette can also knit a number of other dolls and little animals that she has the patterns for. You can tell her what colors you would want them in. At this point we don’t have any pictures of them, but you’re free to discuss design details with Jeannette. The list of other possibilities include: a golden retriever-looking dog chewing on a bone, a black/white panda, a light brown koala bear, a very adorable pig, a Christmas penguin with a hat and a scarf, an autumn harvest mouse and a Christmas mouse (similar design to the mice pictured above), boy or girl frog (regular frogs not in wedding outfits), a graduating owl.

As far as dolls go Jeannette also offers: a fairy doll, a Superman-looking super hero, a chimney sweep (skorstensfejer), a bell hop with champagne and flowers in his hands, a policeman, a fireman, a sailor, and a ballerina. Contact Jeannette to hear about prices for the dolls we don’t have pictures of yet. 

Hope you are interested in any or all (!) of these dolls and little  knitted friends. Just contact Jeannette and place your order, and she’ll start knitting 🙂 

All prices mentioned here are not including shipping – if you need shipping we will ship them, and you pay the shipping charges to whatever country you’re in.

This concludes this somewhat special blog entry!

Blessings, Torben




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