Archive for October, 2009

31
Oct
09

God’s creation speaks of his love

I thought I would post some of the beautiful images of one of God’s daily, but extravagantly beautiful masterpieces that I took at the Black Sea in Bulgaria a few weeks ago.

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Blessings, Torben

26
Oct
09

Broken I run to You

What a privilege to start a new week by sharing life with my colleagues at Grace Ministries International. That all of us can sit and share openly about our lives. Tears were shared. Laughs were laughed. Prayers were exchanged. Life is messy. Spiritual life is often very messy. No simple solutions and answers will satisfy the deepest of our questions. And yet everything is extremely simple. But hard to accept.

It’s a thing of beauty when we come together and share openly. Without excuses, explanations, promises or any other fig leafs. When we encounter each other from the nakedness that we were meant to always live in. The unashamed nakedness that says: “this is what’s going on in my life”. The place we can experience where we don’t have to hide, but where we – as God’s broken cup family – can pour out our hearts to each other and feel safe in knowing that I am neither capable of fixing my own cup and mess nor somebody else’s. All we can do is with a doubting, shaking finger point each other in the direction of Jesus Christ. He is the only hope for all of us. I am not the hope for anybody. I have many people asking me questions about spiritual life. And more and more often I get to say the most freeing words possible: “I don’t know, but I know God knows”. I don’t have to know. I thought I did. 30 years were spent trying to save myself and other people. I was a very poor excuse for a Savior. It was never my job. But I thought it was. I saw God as incompetent and weak, and I saw myself as the most competent person around, so obviously it fell on my plate to fix myself and others. I only managed – as is always the case when we created beings try to fix another created being – to make a big mess out of all of it. Because I didn’t have the power. I prayed for the power, and God said no. The power is his. He doesn’t want to share his power with us. His desire is to display his power through us. Through our cracks. Through our weaknesses. Through the mess we make.

Without my questions, struggles, failures and weaknesses, God’s light couldn’t shine through me. All people would see if I lived a perfect life would be me. They would admire me and put me on a pedestal. But that’s not God’s desire for my life. And, at the end of the day, it’s not my desire either. Not the real me. The real me, at times very well hidden deep in my spirit, wants to bring God glory. The real me wants to be the earthen vessel that God can do his work through. The real me rejoices when God does miracles through me, because I get to experience God’s power at work.

So this remains the journey of brokenness. Embracing myself when I stumble and fail. Accepting that I will always have unanswered questions. Understanding that God doesn’t have to answer all my why-questions. My experience tells me that he seldom answers those. Living with the fact that I don’t have it all together and being humble enough to rejoice in the fact that God loves me and does work through me in light of all my weaknesses and failures. Not just in spite of them.

The journey of brokenness for me seems like a long journey. People talk about a short season of brokenness in their lives. That may be true that they experienced intense brokenness for a shorter period of time. But still, brokenness remains a life long journey. My human will is strong, and it’s so tempting for me to listen to my flesh, elevate myself to a position and seek to have my needs for love, acceptance, worth and security met my way. I did it my way, Frank Sinatra sings. The Bible calls that flesh, and it says – and rightly so – that it will lead to death (Romans 6:23). Death in my relationship to God, myself and other people. When I do things my way and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of resting and eating from the tree of life, I will always experience this death and this felt separation from God, other people and even myself. I end up feeling out of touch with my real self inside of me.

So, God, once again I ask you to be the courage and strength in me that causes me to stand and accept what you’re doing and not running away from you and your ways. You know that the real me wants what you want, but my flesh and my wounded emotions tell me to take a hike and do things my way for my sake. I ask you to continue this breaking process. I don’t say this easily, because I know how much it hurts. But I also know the life it brings to me, and even to other people around me, when I rest in my broken state of being and allow you to be all I need in me and through me. So I ask you to continue to break me and to never give me more success and a higher position than I can handle. I want to live in the honest humility of knowing who I am in you. The humility of freely saying: I am the disciple Jesus loves! Nothing more. Nothing less.

Thanks that you embrace me in my messiness. If I had to have it all together before I could encounter you, it would never happen. Thank you that you love me on days of great celebration and rejoicing and of days of great self-pity and much complaining.

This is my life. This is my sacrifice to you. I thank you that you tell me that it is a pleasing sacrifice to you, because it’s honest.

Blessings, Torben

25
Oct
09

He knows best

I was just hit by a sense of laughing at myself for the silly project that I’ve allowed myself to be engaged in for a while. The project is called ‘questioning God and whining at him for not understanding me and what I need and what I need to do’. It’s a project that certainly doesn’t bring any life to me or to the people around me who end up as collateral damage when I go down the well-worn path of self-pity, doubt and thinking I know better than God.

God, as always, is patient with me, and I believe he just used a couple of conversations yesterday to remind me that he knows very well what he is doing. I was talking to a Portuguese friend of mine on Facebook about the missions conference in Holland at the very end of 2001 where we met each other. This was also the conference where God called me into missions and completely changed the direction of my life. I wasn’t planning on attending this missions conference. I thought I had plans with my girlfriend, but when she decided to end our relationship in November 2001, I thought I might as well go to the missions conference….! There were no deeper spiritual reasons for going than the very human emotion that at least I would be with a lot of people around new year’s instead of puttering around by myself. And God saw that somehow my heart was open, and he called me into missions and changed my life!

I was also talking to my wife Jeannette and we were talking about the fact that we both really wanted to lead a Youth With A Mission Discipleship Training School (YWAM DTS) outreach team to Kenya in Africa in 2004 when we were both on staff helping leading a DTS in England. Unfortunately the base leaders wouldn’t allow the Kenya idea to happen, and instead we ended up leading a team to Ukraine. A year later God called us back to Ukraine and used our two and a half years in Ukraine to break us of much pride and set us on the path we’re still on of learning daily more about what it means to have Christ be our life and rest in everything he is and does instead of trying to produce life ourselves. Would we have gone (back) to Ukraine if we hadn’t been there before with the outreach team? God only knows.

The message from God in reminding me of these two instances is that God knows what he is doing, even when I can’t see the big picture at this point.

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I know parts of what God has called me to do, and I’m impatient for more things to happen quicker. I often eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, and I think that I know what’s best for myself. I want things my way at my pace, but I know that at the essence of who I really am, in my spirit, I want what God wants for me. I want life his way. I want the plans he has for me and the ministry that he wants to do through me to happen in his order and in his way. I know that’s the truth, but I need to be reminded of it, when I’ve fallen under the control of my emotions and believe that nothing is happening…

Blessings, Torben – who just saw this picture of myself from my toddler days and know that God has been leading me all my life even through the experiences I still don’t understand ๐Ÿ™‚

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20
Oct
09

Offended by God’s grace

The multi-Oscar-winning movie, Amadeus, from 1984 shows the story of the unusual musical genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in contrast to the hard working, good composer, but not divinely talented Antonio Salieri. In the movie we see how Salieri is offended by God’s grace as bestowed on Mozart. He recognizes that God for some reason that Salieri can’t understand has decided to express himself through a in Salieri’s view lazy, no good, cocky, young Austrian by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He is furious at God and his grace towards Mozart. He is angry that God had decided to give him certain gifts in writing music, but nothing that came close to Mozart’s level. Watch this clip from the movie, and especially the last minute where Salieri vows to do what he can do to destroy Mozart’s career, and where he declares war on God, because of God’s choices:

I thought about this clip this last week as I was teaching about grace and identity in Christ. How easy it is for us as Christians to fall into the same trap that Salieri, and the older brother in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 fell into where he end up being offended by God’s grace. God’s grace is shocking to us. It is per definition unfair. Or rather: it has nothing to do with fair or unfair! God’s grace is a mystery. God’s grace is bestowed on small and large, important and unimportant, disciplined and undisciplined, educated and uneducated….we can’t stop it. We can’t control it. We can only embrace and celebrate it.

I was teaching about grace last week and some of the people in the group I was teaching were very obviously offended by God’s grace. They obviously wouldn’t use such language, but that was still the case. It feels absurd, maybe even unfair that it’s possible for people to become Christians and then choose to waste their whole lives not serving God one bit, and yet, they are eternally loved, secure and will be safe in God the Father’s arms now and forevermore and nothing they will ever do/say/think/feel will ever be able to change that. That’s offensive to us. That’s not right. Why isn’t there a limit to grace, we ask? We want a limit. We understand that there are consequences for living in sin here on planet earth, but it doesn’t seem right to us that you can just waste away your life as a Christian and God is still gonna love and accept you. But he does. And he always will.

I rejoice in God’s grace. So undeserved. So needed for me. So capable of changing from within. So powerful in melting the iceberg of hurt, anger, blame, self-righteousness, lust, lies, wounds and everything else that keeps me from fully embracing who I really am in Christ.

Let’s refrain from dissecting God’s grace and look at it as it was a frog chosen for that sort of experiment. God’s grace can’t be controlled. God’s grace is per definition insane. I pray that God will always keep me in awe of his grace, so I don’t end up being offended by it.

Salieri couldn’t forgive God for being gracious to Mozart. The older son hated his father for loving and accepting his younger brother without any sort of plan for how he was going to repay the debt. Are you offended by God’s grace to all of us? God truly is a lovesick father. He longs to forgive and renew you and I.

I celebrate the grace of God!

Concepts create idols. Only wonder grasps anything” /Gregory of Nysa

Blessings, Torben

20
Oct
09

#40 – God fulfilling his global calling!

Dear blog readers! It’s about time that I get back to updating this blog site. I have been traveling to Bulgaria and Ukraine these past two weeks, and haven’t had much writing time on hand. Now I’m back in the States, and as usual after one of these missions trips I am filled with things that have touched me, challenged me, excited me and made me wonder. And I will be writing about some of these experiences these next few days.

As I’ve been writing about before, it’s interesting to see how God continues to fulfill the global calling that he has given me. Bulgaria ended up being the 40th country that I’ve visited in my almost 33 years on Planet Earth. Absolutely overwhelming to think about that I’ve visited 40 countries already and that I’ve been allowed to minister God’s grace to people in many of them. I’m delighted that God continues to give me opportunities to go to the nations of the world and minister to his children and other people I run into. In reality Jeannette and I just don’t have the type of money we need to make these trips happen. But God doesn’t care a whole lot about my perception of reality. He has his reality. And in his reality money is not an issue. I’m sitting in my friend’s Tim Galloway’s office here at Grace Ministries International since my own office downstairs is still recovering from the recent flooding in the state of Georgia. Tim has these wise words posted on his wall:

“God always finances His plans. Where God guides, God provides. God never orders something that He doesn’t pay for”

Amen brother! I need to be reminded of these truths often. And I know that it’s true. I see it in my own life. In 2009 this poor missionary got to share the good news of identity, life and freedom in Jesus Christ in countries as diverse as the United States, Denmark, Greenland, Nigeria, Bulgaria and Ukraine! I am in awe of how God unfolds his plans in my life. I am amazed that he continues to give me opportunities to share him with the gifts he has given me. I was excited to see all the good stuff he is doing through other Grace-ministers from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia, England and the United States during our conference in Bulgaria. What exciting times we live in! God is changing this world from within, one individual at a time. More and more people are daring to ask questions such as: “there must be more than this?” and find the answers they’re looking for in the very person of Jesus Christ.

I’m excited to see the next 40 countries God wants to take me to ๐Ÿ™‚

Blessings, Torben – who was so tired after coming home from traveling that he ended up putting his cell phone in the washing machine. Somehow that didn’t help the performance of that device….but thanks to some good Facebook friends I am already getting a different phone today! ๐Ÿ™‚

02
Oct
09

Was Mother Teresa right?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the little Albanian-born missionary to the least of these in India was a remarkable woman. No doubt about that. She gave her life out to suffering people in a self-sacrificing way that I know God was honored by and pleased with!

One quote, however, that she said has become almost known as a piece of Gospel truth in Christian circles. I saw it last week on Facebook. I heard it from friends the other day. I bet you have heard it too sometime these past weeks. If you do a Google search on it you’ll find out that people even claim that it’s in the Bible, even though that’s not the case. The quote from Mother Teresa goes like this:

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much

And the short version is of course: “God will never give you more than you can handle!” While that may sound good, and it’s considered true by many Christians, it actually isn’t true if you go to the Bible and start looking at the truths displayed there, or even if you look at your own or somebody else you knows life. There are many times where God wants us to be in situations where we are in way over our head. He longs to bring us into situations where we don’t know what to do, and we don’t have the strength to carry on. David calls that place “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23. It’s a lonely place where you come to the end of yourself. It would be the most terrible place in the world, if it wasn’t for the fact that Jesus promises to go with us there – “I fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod, and your staff they comfort me“. We come to the end of our own rope when we are burdened beyond what we can handle or what other people can handle for us. We hang at the end of the rope, and we have to let go and we are in a free fall. If God doesn’t show up we are in big trouble. We are out of alternatives. But he does show up in those times.

Paul experienced that God gave him a lot more than he can handle too, and he describes it like this in 2. Corinthians 1:8-9:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, which came to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead

burdened excessively, beyond our strength‘ Paul writes. I have been to that place. Many people have. Some have gone the road of bitterness when faced with sufferings, others have gone the path of brokenness and have encountered Christ there. But aren’t there Bible verses contradicting what I’m saying? No. There are verses talking about that we will not face temptations that are more than we can handle in the sense that we always, as God’s children, have a choice when faced with temptation (and remember temptation is not from God! He doesn’t tempt us!). There is a way out. We can choose to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8), say no to the temptation and walk away from it. Or we can choose to give into the temptation, and we get to experience death in our lives. The verse about God always providing a way out of temptation can be found in 1. Corinthians 10:13, and the fact that God doesn’t tempt anyone can be studied in James 1:13. But again, these verses don’t negate the fact that God’s plan for all of us is to bring us to a place of brokenness and surrender where we admit that we don’t have what it takes to live the life we want to live. Where we accept that we can’t do it without Christ doing it through us. It’s never about us getting strength from God to do our life. God wants to bring us to a place of death where we surrender to him and let him live his life through us. We are his unique expressions to the world, but it’s him who does it all. All I do is surrender and submit to him doing his will through my life.

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So while Mother Teresa was a wise woman, she wasn’t right that God never gave her more than she could handle. And from so many of her other writings, I know that she often came to the end of herself and cried out to God to intervene. And he did. And he does. And he will for you and me today. God’s timing is always perfect. I often disagree with his timing, but that’s me wanting to be God and assuming that I know best. God knows best. God knows how to bring me into places, situations, relationships, circumstances where I’m in way over my head and where I come to the place of finally surrendering to him and throwing myself in his arms fully. He longs for that. And the truth is that I, as a child of God, also long for that. I’m just so often confused by the noise and distractions of my soul and body life that I don’t hear the Spirit’s voice in my spirit whispering: “give up, surrender to my love and you will experience the life you always wanted”. Thank God for the truth in this quote by C. S. Lewis:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world

I don’t like the megaphone anymore than anybody else does. But I’m thankful for the life that God has given me because he has given me much more than I can handle.

Blessings, Torben – who is very excited about his trip to Bulgaria and Ukraine these next few weeks!




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