Archive for June, 2009

30
Jun
09

Kaká – he belongs to Jesus!

On my old blog-site, www.torbenriisjensen.blogspot.com, I wrote this about the Brazilian football (soccer) super star Kaká one and a half year ago: “The world’s best footballer these days, a young Brazilian by the name of Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, or better known as just KAKÁ isn’t just a wonderful football player, he is also a great testimony of Jesus Christ and what Jesus has done in Kaká’s life. After each goal, and there are many, he points to heaven to show who gets all the glory in Kaká’s life, and after each trophy he has won, and he has won many, he shows his t-shirt saying I BELONG TO JESUS!

In fact it seems like the only problem with this wonderful Christian brother, is that he isn’t willing to switch clubs to Real Madrid..! :-)”

Today, that “only problem” has been solved, since Kaká is now a Real Madrid player!! This wonderful football player and ambassador of Christ is now the latest star to join my childhood love of Real Madrid 🙂

kaka8

Kaká, who just dazzled the world again during the Confederations Cup where he lead Brazil to victory and was selected as the best player of the tournament, will now be even more in the spotlight than he was used to when he was playing for A.C. Milan. A.C. Milan is a large club, but nowhere near the status and size of Real Madrid.

It’s great that one of the top three footballers in the world these days (the other two being Real Madrid’s Portuguese, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Barcelona’s Argentine, Lionel Messi) is so open about his relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s beautiful that he makes such an impact on and off the field that people can’t talk about Kaká without talking about his faith in Jesus Christ as well. I remember seeing a football magazine in Ukraine with a picture of Kaká on the cover and the heading said what Kaká’s t-shirts always say: “I Belong To Jesus“. It’s great that Kaká helps spread the message of life in Jesus Christ this way to millions of people all over the world who wouldn’t normally be interested in “religion”

kakaibelong

It was interesting to see how the Danish newspaper Politiken just yesterday was desperately trying to discredit Kaká, team captain Lúcio and the other believers on the Brazilian national team (see picture above) by trying to make it sound as if they’re part of some mysterious sect as opposed to just being great men who are madly in love with the only Savior and hope of the world, Jesus Christ! The fact that Kaká’s favorite book is the Bible, and that he was a virgin when he married his teenhood sweetheart, Caroline, has always been a thorn in the side of the secular sports media all over the world, but the fact is that it stands as a beautiful testimony of a man fully dedicated to his savior and best friend, Jesus Christ in a world of sports where selfishness, stupidity and sex is what normally sells….

I am looking forward to watching Kaká strut his stuff in the beautiful white jersey, and I will continue to remember to pray for him to stay strong in Christ and not give into the temptations of this world. There is nothing Satan and the secular media would enjoy more than to see Kaká fall one way or another. I am thankful, though, that the one who is in Kaká is stronger than the one, Satan, who is in this world (1. John 4:4)!!

Torben – who is hoping to get a Real Madrid Kaká-jersey for Christmas 🙂

26
Jun
09

“I will pay the postage” (about our global calling)

I have been given a global calling by God. Or more correctly we, Jeannette and I, have been given a global calling by God. We are some of those crazy people who are called to the nations. I love the world. I have been to quite a variety of countries so far, but I would love to be able to travel and minister about Jesus Christ in all countries in the world! We will have to see if God is going to fulfill that dream, or if I will have to settle with visiting 100 countries or so in my life time 🙂

We long to see God’s kingdom break more fully through all over the world. And we have, with Isaiah, cried out to God when he has asked: “Whom shall I send?” “HERE WE ARE SEND US!!” We are willing to go. I was first called into full-time missions during a large European Missions Conference that took place in Holland the very last days of 2001 and the first few days of 2002. I had made it into 2002, celebrating New Year’s Eve with 6000 other young Europeans, without receiving anything special from God. And then, all of a sudden, the calling from God was there! I am sure the sermon on the last evening of that conference was for me alone. That’s how it felt anyway. It was the simple story of Jesus feeding 5000 men plus a whole bunch of women and children with just a few bread and some fish that spoke directly into my heart. I understood that that’s what missions is all about: I bring the little I feel I have to Jesus, he breaks it, blesses it and multiplies it and it becomes rich blessings to the multitudes! I knew God had forever changed my life! And I said: “yes, I will go!

That “yes” has lead me to many different countries the last years: England, Ukraine, Moldova, Slovakia, Poland, Russia,Denmark, Malaysia, Nigeria, the United States, and soon my journey with God will also take me to countries such as Iceland, Greenland and Bulgaria. 

It’s an adventure that I enjoy living! And as you have probably been able to read on this blog site especially the last trip that he took me on that gave me my first African encounter was an incredibly blessed trip. I love the nations! I love new cultures! I love seeing that God’s truths can change the lives of all people from all nations

It’s also a scary adventure. And it’s an adventure that has hurt tremendously at times. Jesus did break the bread and the fish, and he has had to break me too. I have walked many steps in the valley of the shadow of death. And I am a very different person than I was seven years ago sitting in the crowd in Holland listening to the sermon where God called me into a life that I had no clue would take me to the places personally it has taken me to. I am extremely thankful for what God has done in my life. I am extremely thankful that I am not the same person that I used to be. I am glad that God has shown me many, many times that when he calls me into something, he is going with me, and he will supply everything I need. I have many stories of God orchestrating many people and circumstances to call me into a deeper understanding of who he is and who I am in him. So I know that he is trustworthy. But still there are times when I am afraid. 

Like right now when I think about the global calling on my life. Traveling to the nations of the world costs a lot of money. Will God provide for us? What about the day that we – God-willing – would have some children, will he still provide? Will people continue to respond to God’s calling and be the people that God will use to bless us and help us fulfill the calling he has on our lives? These questions can fill me with fear. Fear for the future. Fear always paralyzes. 1. John 4:18 tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear“, and I surrender to that love. I choose to trust God’s love. I choose to listen to what his Spirit is whispering to my spirit: “fear not, I am with you. I am in you. I will never call you to do something with me, where I won’t go with you and won’t supply everything you need and much more as a blessing just because you’re mine“. God is a prodigal God. He loves me generously. And in days of doubt, and in days of fear I cling to the promises of God. 

God gave me a very clear picture this past fall. He showed me that Jeannette and I are a letter from him. A letter about love, acceptance, freedom, life and peace in Jesus Christ. That’s the message that God has written on our hearts. Nothing can ever take that message away from us. It was God who wrote it, and nobody can erase anything he has written. He showed me that the letter of us was put in an envelope. I sat with the letter and the envelope, and as I was thinking about us as this letter from God, I knew that he was calling me to do a symbolical act of taking a letter, putting it in an envelope and attaching a pencil and a permanent marker to it. So I did that. God is the one who is sending us, the letter. And we have given God full freedom to choose whether he wants to write the address of where we are going with a pencil, so it’s easy to change, symbolizing our lives the last years where we have been moving fairly frequently, or if he, at some point, will choose to write the address of our home with a permanent marker, symbolizing that we are called to be in one location for an extended period of time. It’s completely up to him. And as I put the pencil and the permanent marker with the letter, I felt him very clearly tell me: “And don’t worry, I will pay the postage!“. What a promise from God! And I need to be reminded of it, when I start worrying about the future. We are in God’s hands. We are children of the almighty ruler of the Universe, and he’ll supply the dollars and dimes we need to be able to walk the path he has chosen for us globally and locally!

Blessings, Torben

23
Jun
09

The train station dance

I had no clue that Belgians were into more things than eating French Fries – which were invented in Belgium – and Belgian waffles 🙂 But this wonderful video from the train station in Antwerp, Belgium even suggests that Belgians have rhythm and can dance!

More than 200 dancers were performing their version of “Do Re Mi” from the classic movie “The Sound of Music” that my mom and sister have seen so many times that I even know most of the songs, in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just two rehearsals they created this very cool dance! The dance started March 23, 2009, at 8 in the morning on a normal grey Belgian day. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they were looking for someone to play the leading role in the musical version of “The Sound of Music”.

I really enjoy watching the reactions, the excitement and the joy of the people who watch the dancers dance! It’s always wonderful to see some spontaneous joy 🙂 

Blessings, Torben

19
Jun
09

Through the valley of the shadow of death

I keep coming back to Psalm 23. I just can’t get away from it. I keep praying it over people, when I talk to them about deep hurts, life in general and life as a disciple of Jesus in general. It has become the blue print for how I see the life of a disciple. It’s got such richness to it that it can speak to a child who learn it in Sunday school and impresses her grand parents when she proudly recites it, and it can speak to grown ups who have known God intimately for decades. There is such a richness in the simple words of that beautiful Psalm which I believe aside from John 3:16 and maybe 1. Corinthians chapter 13 about love, may be the best known part of the whole Bible.

I learned it as a kid as well, but these last months God keeps bringing me back to this rich Psalm and keeps unpacking the many layers of it. We did a whole teaching week in Nigeria about the life of Christ in us based on the six verses of the 23rd Psalm. Today I was thinking of it as I was listening to and singing along with Matt Redman’s beautiful worship song “You Never Let Go“. Matt Redman mentions the valley of the shadow of death, and I enjoy singing this song which is one of the in spite of-songs that I enjoy as opposed to the happy, clappy and at times slightly unrealistic because of-songs that so many people produce these years.

The valley of the shadow of death is the place where David turns the language in the Psalm from the impersonal “he” to the personal “You”. In that valley it’s only David and Jesus. And it’s only me and Jesus. The valley of the shadow of death is the place where we come to the end of our own rope and accept that we cannot create life and live abundantly in our own resources. It’s a place where no person can go with you. Only Jesus can go with you, and he does. His rod and his staff protect and comfort you. He knows what he is doing when he brings you into that valley. He knows you need to learn dependence, because your tendency – like any other human being – is to be a sheep who goes astray in your own direction thinking that you have it under control and you need to be in charge (Isaiah 53:6). In that valley you die to your independent will that promises you life and control, but only brings you mediocrity and counterfeit life. And in that place you are faced with the choice of brokenness or bitterness, and if you choose brokenness, you emerge from this valley as a new and life-filled child of God!

Here is the song You Never Let Go:

Blessings, Torben

18
Jun
09

Personal AND universal

I have always been a passionate man. God has put a hunger in me for truth, and the last 10-15 years have been a long search for something that was real truth! I always had the notion that in order for something to be real, genuine, 100% truth it had to live up to two criteria: it had to be personal, something that we can experience and know, and it had to be universal in the sense that it couldn’t be something that was reserved for a limited number of people, it had to be equally available to everybody!

I have found out that very few things live up to those two criteria. I remember many conversations with one of my best friends, Carsten Almann Levisen, who would always end up being the bubble burster when I had thought of something I was very passionate about, and that I thought that all people in the world needed to hear about. He would often ask me questions about whether whatever it was I was so passionate about would be available and relevant for a 40 year old mother with three children in Indonesia, or a man with no education from Swaziland or a young child from an abusive background from Holland…..? Those are just examples of the people he would ask about, and every time I had to admit that he was probably right that either it took a certain level of education or some kind of special interest for it to be both available and relevant for these people. 

It was a frustrating thing that he was bursting my bubbles, but I needed that to continue my search for real truth. And here many years after those first conversations in the late 90’s I have found the real deal! Since God took me on the journey of brokenness and lead me into the valley of the shadow of death more than three years ago, I have come to see, experience and embrace truths about who God is and who we as believers are in him that are truly both personal and universal!

I saw these truths in full bloom in Nigeria recently. We were people from three different continents (Africa, North America and Europe). We were people with very different backgrounds (some from rich, well-developed nations and some from tribal societies where their dads had five wives and worshiped idols). We had both men and women represented in our group. We had people between the ages of 20 and 72. We had people who had received hardly any education at all and who could barely read, and we had people in the group with doctorates and long fancy-sounding educations. We were, in short, an incredibly diverse group. And God’s truth, who is Jesus who call himself the truth (John 14:6), was the one who broke through all barriers and revealed himself and who we are in him to all of us despite our differences.

It was amazing to see that the truths of God’s Word are both personal – he spoke to us in many different ways and revealed different aspects of the truth – and universal – our differences didn’t matter, we were all united in having a true hunger for the truth that will set us free! Everybody in the world is longing for true freedom. Everybody is searching to have our needs for love, acceptance, worth and security met. All almost 7 billion inhabitants of Planet Earth are looking to have those needs met. And they can only be met in encountering the God of the Universe, revealed in his son Jesus Christ who is all truth! Not just some of the truth. But all truth. All truth is God’s truth. Every time anybody encounters real truth, it’s God’s truth. Even if these people belong to a different religion or claim that there is no God at all. Every encounter with truth that sets us free to live lives of freedom, peace, joy, love and acceptance, worth and significance without any hangovers or hidden price tags, is an encounter with God!

I am so happy that I have the privilege of being able to work full time ministering about these truths about God and us that are truly personal, universal, transformational and life changing! The changes that we experience when we truly encounter God are not these changes that wear off within a few weeks or months. When we truly encounter God we are changed forever, and we are forever ruined for the ordinary!

I thank my friend, Carsten, for being the tool that God used to always push me towards finding the real, universal truth, and I’m so happy that God revealed the real deal to me. And I count it a joy and a privilege to be able to devote my life to sharing about the truth who is Jesus Christ!

(Edit: I am blessed to be married to a wonderful woman who loves to help me see my blind spots, and as I was sharing about this blog entry, she asked me to consider if it didn’t sound a bit too much as if I have arrived and I don’t have anything more to learn. Great question, and I certainly want to clarify what I think about that. I do believe that I found the pearl and have bought the field where the pearl is in, but I’m certainly not thinking or believing that I have discovered everything there is to discover about this field. The kingdom of God is vast and has no end just like God’s love has no end. And I am looking forward to a long life and the rest of eternity to explore the riches that Christ has purchased for me and given to me. So yes, I am parked at the truths of who God really is, and who I am in him, but I am still longing to see and experience more truth. That longing for more truth has been with me for of my life, and I’m convinced that I’ll always be hungry for more truth! So I am by no means “done” or “arrived” in the sense of thinking that I know everything there is to know about the wonders of God and his love 🙂 It feels like I have only just scratched the surface a little bit, and I’m excited that there is so much more to have revealed to me)

Blessings, Torben

I do stand amazed:

17
Jun
09

What unconditional love really means

In Nigeria we talked a lot about God’s unconditional love. God’s love is prodigal towards you and me. It’s excessively generous. It’s over the top and insane when it comes to generosity. God’s love isn’t about fairness. It’s not fair. It’s a love filled with grace and mercy and compassion. It’s crazy! If you think you understand God’s love and grace and feel comfortable explaining exactly what it is and how it works, you have no clue what you are talking about! 🙂

What does the word “unconditional” normally mean. If we break it down a little bit, I guess we can all agree that it must mean “without conditions”, and my dictionary agrees and says it means “not subject to any conditions”. Most theologians and Christians agree that God’s love is unconditional. At least on paper. At least when we talk about him. But many Christians in actuality – when the door is closed and they are all alone with their thoughts – have a picture of God that his love is extremely conditional!

Many Christians don’t believe the fact that nothing they can do can make God love them less, and nothing they can do can make God love them more. Some believers honestly believe that they could lose their salvation and their secure standing with God depending on something they would think, say or do.

These same believers may agree with Paul when he concludes Romans 8 with these famous words talking about how there is nothing or nobody that can separate us from the love we receive in Christ:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)

But I think that often we don’t really mean that “nor anything in all creation” can separate us from God. We are created beings ourselves, but many, many christians still believe that their actions or lack of actions, or their thoughts or lack of thoughts, or anything else they do or don’t do can separate them from God. The truth is that if God’s love is unconditional it means that you can’t be separated from it under any conditions.

rose

To make sure I write it as clearly as possible, I want to say the same thing that I said to my Pastor friends in Nigeria: if you are in Christ, and you know that you know that you know that you have received the new birth that Jesus talked about in John 3 (and only the Holy Spirit can convince you of that!)…..then you have a choice: you can live a sinful life, sleep around with random people, wallow in everything you’re dead to and live like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and be miserable, or you can sit and eat donuts every day in the same chair until you explode, or you can go out and serve full-time in missions work overseas for the next 56 years, and God will love all three of them the same! God is the Prodigal Father who runs to all these three of his children and embraces them and whispers in their ears that he loves them just the way they are! He doesn’t love them or us the way we should be or could be, but just the way we are. Not in spite of our weaknesses and our sins, but in light of our weaknesses and sins!

God’s love for us is based on who he is. God is love 1. John 4:8 tells us. It’s not part of who he is. It is who he is. He is love. He always has been and always will be love. Everything he has ever done or will ever do is loving. And his love for us is not based on our response to him. He is love, and he will always love, forgive and embrace his children who come to him and ask him to be their Father.

When you are in a relationship with God you are – as one of the Nigerian Pastors put it – STUCK! There is nothing you can do about it! You are with him forever, and he will always love you! He will always forgive you and never reject you. That’s the essence of his love that is truly without conditions!

Blessings, Torben

I have to re-post a video with Aaron Keyes’ powerful song Not Guilty Anymore

And here are the lyrics to Not Guilty Anymore

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. Hear me tell you: I forgive!

You’re not guilty anymore. You’re not filthy anymore. I love you, mercy is yours. You’re not broken anymore, you’re not captive anymore. I love you, mercy is yours.

Can you believe that this is true. Grace abundant I am giving you. It’s cleansing deeper than you know. All was paid for long ago.

You’re not guilty anymore. You’re not filthy anymore. I love you, mercy is yours. You’re not broken anymore, you’re not captive anymore. I love you, mercy is yours.

There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Jesus. You’re not guilty anymore. You’re not filthy anymore. I love you, mercy is yours. You’re not broken anymore, you’re not captive anymore. I love you, mercy is yours.

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

16
Jun
09

Miserable in the kingdom of God

I want to write more blog entries about the fact that if you have truly accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your Lord and Savior, and you have experienced what is written in Romans 8:15 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” there is no way you can lose your salvation and your place in Christ’s family and kingdom no matter how you think/feel/behave, and actually you’ll discover as you dive into the New Testament that the question of losing your salvation isn’t one that the Biblical authors spend much energy on. They simply don’t think that that would be a relevant question for somebody who has truly accepted Christ and has become a new creation in him! 

Another question that I’ve thought about is: “can you be miserable in the kingdom of God?“. And to that question the answer is a clear yes! You don’t have to experience the blessings of being in the kingdom of God. You are not forced to enjoy everything that Christ has bought for you. God won’t twist your arm to make you eat of the living bread and drink of the living water that is Christ and experience the healing that he came to bring. 

The truth is that if you’re in God’s kingdom you are free! You are free to enjoy the benefits and the blessings of living a surrendered life where Jesus is Shepherd and you are just a sheep following him. Jesus calls that life abundant (John 10:10). It’s a wonderful life where you get to experience what Paul talks about as both love (Ephesians 3:19) and peace (Philippians 4:7) that goes beyond regular human understanding. Jesus could be asleep in the boat in the midst of a storm because he knew who he was and was free to rest in the fact that he was God’s beloved child (Mark 4:35-41). “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free“, Paul cries out in Galatians 5:1 and he continues: “stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery“. You are free to live the abundant life of the kingdom. Circumstances may not be different than other peoples’ circumstances, but you can get to experience peace, joy, excitement, love, passion and everything else that’s truly great in the midst of whatever circumstances, because you know that Jesus Christ is always there with you, and you know you’re safe in him and with him!

I am a member of the Danish kingdom. I have a Danish passport, and if I move back to Denmark again, I will get to enjoy the benefits of being a Danish citizen again. I will get the education I want, the health care I need, etc. without having to pay extra for it. It’s part of the blessings of being a Danish citizen. But I don’t have to enjoy a single blessing of being a Dane. Nobody forces me to do it. I don’t have to ever go to Denmark again and reap any of the blessings of my kingdom. 800px-Dannebrog
And in the same way you don’t have to experience the blessings of being in the kingdom of God. You are free to hold on to your Christianity misunderstanding where all Jesus did was buy you a ticket for Heaven, which will guarantee you free entry to Heaven the day you die. Many people live as if that’s all Jesus did for them. They don’t see that Christ promised them abundant life today! Not just when we die. It’s very possible to be miserable in the kingdom of God. To stand towards the edge of the kingdom and pout with other people who in essence are saying: we wish we were like the people outside of the kingdom! Many Christians live like this. They have recreated and new spirits and they have the fullness of God dwelling within them, but they have cut themselves away from experiencing the blessings of their new reality in their soul and body, either because they simply don’t know that they are new, perfect creations in Christ (2. Corinthians 5:17), and they still believe the Satanic lie that they are just “dirty, rotten sinners saved by grace“. Or maybe they know something about who they are, but they are still not trusting God to be God, and they try to make life happen based on themselves, their resources, their flesh – and Paul yells out at them: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?“. (Galatians 3:3)

Or maybe it’s simply just a matter of fear. We are in the kingdom, but we are still afraid of the king. We haven’t had it revealed to us that God is good. Like Lucy in C. S. Lewis’s magnificent story “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was wondering about the lion Aslan, we are wondering about Jesus: “is he safe?”, and we need to have it revealed to us the way Lucy did that “no, Jesus isn’t safe, but he is GOOD“. He is not safe in the sense that you can control him like a little pet, but he is good. Infinitely good. And all his thoughts towards us are good and filled with love. 

800px-Lion_waiting_in_Nambia

Jesus asked a somewhat weird question to a disabled man in John 5: “do you want to get well?“. And he is asking you, the child of the kingdom, the same question today. We are also sick, with bruised and battered souls and bodies after rejections and abuse, but Jesus knows that our lives will be changed completely if we receive healing, and he is not going to force himself on us. The disabled man had to trust Jesus to change his reality completely, and we need the same reality change from Jesus. He will not force us to experience the healing life of being in his kingdom, but he is extending the invitation to all of us.

I used to think that abundant life and peace and joy were illusions, until Jesus started opening my eyes to the realities of life in the kingdom of God! I thank Jesus that he did that, and I know he’ll do the same for you. Just ask him.

Blessings, Torben




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