Archive for the 'quote of the week' Category

15
Sep
09

Still a broken cup

It’s been a bit more than a year and a half since this blog site saw the light of the cyber space day. I thought I would give you, dear reader, a chance to listen to a little devotion that I did a few weeks ago where I talked about the reality of my brokenness, the reality that I don’t know everything there is to know about living my life as a follower of Christ, and the places I go to when I’m just plain, old disappointed in myself and how I live my life.

You are very welcome to listen to this devotion here on Grace Ministries International’s website. 

Here is the quote that I read in the devotion plus a few other quotes that talk about the truths that I reflect on in the devotion. 

“Jesus, my brother and Lord, I pray as I write these words the grace to be truly poor before you, to recognize and accept my weakness and humanness, to forgo the indecent luxury of self-hatred, to celebrate your mercy, and trust in your power when I am at my weakest, to rely on your love no matter what I do, to seek no escapes from my innate poverty, to accept loneliness when it comes instead of seeking substitutes, to live peacefully without clarity or assurance, to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in my life fade away, to belong no more to myself, not to desert my post when I give the appearance of staying at it, to cling to my humanity, to accept the limitations and full responsibility of being a human being – really human and really poor in Christ our Lord” (Brennan Manning in Reflections for Ragamuffins)

“Your real new self will not come as you’re looking for it. It’ll come as You look for Him (Christ). Only in Him will I know who I am” (C. S. Lewis)

“And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself” (Søren Kierkegaard)

“My primary identity rests on what God has done for me through Christ” (Brennan Manning).

I hope that God will bless you and speak to you through listening to what He has been teaching me.

Blessings, Torben

25
Aug
09

Cynicism or joy

A choice that I’m often presented with is the choice between cynicism and joy. Growing up and in most of my life I have always had a tendency to be very cynical (‘honesty’ I used to call it…), negative (‘realistic’ was my term for that…) and sarcastic (‘having a sense of humor’ in my words…). Cynicism, negativity, sarcasm, fault-finding are all different words that have to do with judgment. Judgment of God as being incompetent and not living up to my expectations, so I decide that he is a liar with his lofty promises (“abundant life?….yeah right!”) and I choose to live a life as a believer where I profess to be a Christian, but spend the vast majority of my energy judging other people for their mistakes and hating God for not giving me what I want. I also judge other people and deem them not worthy of my time and energy. Soft, good-hearted, forgiving people are seen as weak and pathetic, and it becomes very hard for me to relate to a God of compassion, grace and relentless love.

I am a cynic in healing. Some Christians I have met say that “it’s just natural for me to be more negative and cynical than other people“. That’s simply not true. It’s a lie. There is simply no way that it’s ‘natural’ for a born again child of God with the Holy Spirit living inside of him or her to be cynical, harsh, negative and judgmental. It’s flesh. It’s ugly. It needs to be recognized, confessed and exposed and put in its right place under Jesus’ leadership.

I am a cynic in healing. I have spent much time in my life finding faults. I have often found myself belonging to the large group of Christians who just never seem to find a church that fits them. There is always something that they don’t like. The other people never live up to their expectations. They think they are spiritually mature and have the gift of discernment because they can see that no churches are perfect. The problem is that we all know that no churches are perfect. It’s truly stating the obvious! But the tragedy is that these people, these cynical Christians, either just sit miserable in their bitterness and self-righteousness in the seats of whatever church or they conclude that church is a waste of time altogether and find themselves church-less, and often after a short while life-less as well. It’s a slow fade, but I’ve seen it happen for too many people I hold dear, and I thank God that he stopped me in my tracks when I was going down that well-worn path. And I thank him that he is healing me for the cynicism and negativity that used to control my life all the time.

It doesn’t mean that I’m not able to find faults anymore. Trust me, I’m great at that. I can find faults anywhere. But I don’t have to entertain that thought, invite it in for dinner and invite other people to share that discovery with me. I can say to God that I don’t want to live in darkness, and he will gradually show me more and more what it looks like to live as a child of the light.

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Grace-healed eyes

I was very challenged by the following sections from The Return Of The Prodigal Son. It speaks volumes to me and challenges me to continue down the path of healing with Christ where he changes me from a son of cynicism to a child of joy, just the same way he changed the Apostle John from a son of thunder who wanted to call fire down on unrepentant people (Luke 9:51-55) to the apostle of love who couldn’t stop celebrating Christ’s love for him and named himself  ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ (John 20:2) when he wrote his gospel.

“The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to ‘steal’ all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see. Yes, I know that not everybody has been converted yet, that there is not yet peace everywhere, that all pain has not yet been taken away, but still, I see people turning and returning home; I hear voices that pray; I notice moments of forgiveness, and I witness many signs of hope. I don’t have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint the Kingdom that is at hand.

This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded with lies. I am tempted to be so impressed by the obvious sadness of the human condition that I no longer claim the joy manifesting itself in many small but very real ways. The reward of choosing joy is joy itself. There is so much rejection, pain, and woundedness among us, but once you choose to claim the joy hidden in the midst of all suffering, life becomes celebration,. Joy never denies the sadness, but transforms it to fertile soil for more joy.

Surely I will be called naive, unrealistic, and sentimental, and I will be accused of ignoring the ‘real’ problems, the structural evils that underlie much of human misery. But God rejoices when one repentant sinner returns. Statistically that is not very interesting. But for God, numbers never seem to matter. Who knows whether the world is kept from destruction because of one, two or three people who have continued to pray when the rest of humanity has lost hope and dissipated itself?” (The Return Of The Prodigal Son, pages 115-116).

A few years ago I would have been in the large group calling Nouwen and people like him ‘naive, unrealistic, sentimental and ignorant’, but they are not. The more I get, what Philip Yancey in his masterpiece What’s So Amazing About Grace, called grace-healed eyes, the more I see that I am called to be like Nouwen and the other naive dreamers. I am also called as a child of the light to point to the light in the world when it’s visible. I’m not called to be ignorant about the real problems that are in this world. And I doubt that will ever be a temptation for me to not be aware of the real problems that are going on. But being aware of the problems and talking a lot about them, doesn’t do much to solve them. I have spent a lot of useless time dwelling of the problems in the world, and the problems in the church, instead of being a part of the minority that is always active in loving people and bringing forth life and light where darkness, bitterness and mediocrity rule.

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Darkness/light, cynicism/joy

I will give the scene to Henri Nouwen again in these two segments where he contrasts people of cynicism with people of joy. I recognize myself very well in the cynical people, but thank God (!!) I’m beginning to see more and more of the simple joy in my life. And joy, not cynicism, is after all, one of the fruits of the Spirit living his life in and through me.

For me it is amazing to experience daily the radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental. They sneer at enthusiasm, ridicule spiritual fervor, and despise charismatic behavior. They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by ‘escapist emotions’. But in belittling God’s joy, their darkness calls forth more darkness.

People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal others’ wounds, forgive each others’ offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God’s glory” (The Return Of The Prodigal Son, page 117)

These are powerful words indeed. They expose the darkness that’s still inside of me. They expose how often I’m tempted to look at the dark instead of the bright colors of life. They expose that I often find it easier, more comfortable and even more spiritual (!) to criticize instead of encourage.

Paul urged the Ephesian church to: “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Real truth is always filled with love. And real love is always filled with truth. This is not a call to blindness, stupidity, a childish outlook on life or anything like that. We are called to be aware. Be aware of both the good, the bad and the ugly. But in this day and age where most people are focusing on everything that doesn’t work in and outside of the church or in their own lives, the calling to celebrate the light is even stronger than ever before. I rarely have any problems speaking what I believe is the truth. But if it’s not spoken in love, it’s worth nothing (1. Corinthians 13), and I always have to ask myself a key question: “will what I am about to say build up relationships or break down relationships?‘. If it will break down relationships, it is probably better to stay quiet, but if it will build up relationships, I am free to speak what’s on my heart and trust that God put it there.

Here is the song A Place Called Grace. The place that we can all run to no matter how caught up in cynicism and resentment we may be. It’s a place where God starts to melt the iceberg that is around our true selves and we get to experience that God’s forgiveness and mercy changes us slowly from within

Blessings, Torben – who is glad that it’s God doing the changing of focus! It’s not about me tricking myself into seeing more of the light in this world. I simply see it the more I see Christ – who is the light of the world – in my life!

17
Aug
09

Do you want to experience God’s love?

I have been reading a great book by Henri Nouwen called The Return of The Prodigal Son. It’s somewhat of a spiritual classic talking about the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 and especially about the Dutch painter Rembrandt’s interpretation of this story in his painting The Return of The Prodigal Son

rembrandt

One quote stood out in the book that talks the choice we have as believers. We can, like the older son in the story and in the painting, stay in the shadows and pout, be bitter and miss out on most of what God has for his children. Or we can, like the younger son, allow God to embrace us and be changed into the fullness of who we are as his sons and daughters.

The Father’s love does not force itself on the beloved. Although he wants to heal us of all our inner darkness, we are still free to make our own choice to stay in the darkness or to step into the light of God’s love. God is there. God’s light is there. God’s forgiveness is there. God’s boundless love is there. What is so clear is that God is always there, always ready to give and forgive, absolutely independent of our response. God’s love does not depend on our repentance or our inner or outer changes” (page 78)

God truly is a gentleman. He doesn’t force us to live in the reality of who we really are as children of light. We can choose to live in the bitterness and lack of life of the children of darkness. The choice is yours and mine. The invitation is open. God is always there. Always out looking for us. Always ready to forgive and forget and throw a party when we return to him and accept his boundless love for us instead of holding on to our own misperceptions of who God is and who we are as people.

Blessings, Torben

13
Jun
09

The Word of God is alive

I’ll just start out the long lists of blog entries that are dying to get out in cyberspace by writing about a wonderful discovery that I made while I was in Nigeria teaching about who we as children of God are in Christ. God spoke to my friend Tim and I about this trip and we decided to go with the flow (read: the Holy Spirit’s guidance) and teach in a for us completely new, daring and different way. We canned any manuscript, teaching manual, power points and other multimedia tools and decided to face a week of teaching about who we are in Christ, grace, mercy, freedom and abundant life in Christ and security of salvation only armed with a few diagrams to explain some truths, what God has revealed to us as individuals and the Bible. 

I have never taught so “unstructured” before, and yet there was a wonderful structure and flow provided by the Holy Spirit. I would go up and teach and share, and at some point I would feel like I was running out of steam. I would look at Tim, sit down, and even though I would have no clue where he would be leading the group. I would feel confident and trust that God was in complete control of the teaching week. And he was. And he did answer our heart cry for him to reveal himself. We desperately need more revelation of who he is, and when we see more of who he really is, we also see more of who we are. And as these wonderful quotes show it also goes the other way around:

“There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself and if I find my true self, I will find Him” (Thomas Merton)

“There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God” (John Calvin)

“Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know you” (Saint Augustine)

And God revealed both. He revealed more about who we are, and he revealed more about who he is. And he did the vast majority of the revealing through his Word. Through the Bible. Through the most sold book in the history of mankind. Through verses that many of us had read many times before. Through establishing connections between Bible verses that I had never seen before. Through showing that His Word is still alive!

Hebrews 4:12 teaches us that: “the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword“. I knew that verse before my trip to Nigeria. I have seen that be true before. But never as intense and real as during this time of teaching in Africa. It was truly amazing to see God open the spiritual eyes and ears of us all through the Scriptures. All Tim and I did was sharing what God had reminded us to share, and God used that to reveal himself, because we were speaking his word. Jesus said that we will “know the truth, and the truth will set us free” (John 8:31), and I saw that happen in front of my very eyes. I saw the truth, who is Jesus (John 14:6), set people free.

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One of the Pastors said this at the end of the week: “I have been wearing a mask trying to show people that I was perfect, but on the inside I was always afraid of failure. Now I’ve seen that I don’t have to and don’t want to wear a mask. I’m free to be me. This week has become a new life for me. A whole new life for me personally, for my marriage, for my ministry”,

another Pastor added: “I have seen that God loves me. No matter if I look strong or weak, God loves me just the way I am. Unmasking the mask is the power of effective witness. I experienced an explosion of joy yesterday. I have been trying to fix my life, fix my wife, and fix my children. Now I am a changed person” 

and a third person said this: “I have been reading the Bible for more than 60 years, but I have gotten more revelation this week than ever in the past. I now know who I am in Christ and I can read the Scriptures with confidence.”

The Word is truly alive! It’s real. It’s changing lives of people today! I am so thankful that God expanded my faith in the fact that his Word is alive. It’s not about fancy new techniques, programs, flyers, books, new technology or anything like that. It’s about who God is and how he reveals himself and the truth about who we are through his Word. We simply need to know that we know that we know that we know that we know that we are loved just the way we are, not the way we could/should/will be. We need to see that God doesn’t love us in spite of our weaknesses, but in light of our weaknesses. And we need a Rock to build our lives on that doesn’t move. And the only Rock that will not move is Jesus Christ and the revelations about him in the Bible. 

All glory to the living God who is alive and working yesterday, today and forevermore!

Blessings, Torben

08
Feb
09

Trust

The other day I was talking to a guy about whether we can actually trust ourselves. We talk about trust as something that is assumed between married people, good friends, or even between business associates. Some don’t trust anybody. Some trust too much and get easily hurt in the process. Trust is defined as a: “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something“. Trust is something foundational. I trust that my car won’t blow up even though it is a piece of metal filled with elements that could potentially explode any second. I trust that the bed I’m sitting on won’t crash under me. And I trust that the sun will rise tomorrow again.

But trust between people is something special. When trust has been broken between people, we talk about how difficult it is to start trusting people again. We talk about that people have to earn our trust. “Earn trust” is really a rather strange concept. I am not quite sure you can earn anything else as important as trust. And in reality I don’t believe you can earn trust. Trust is a gift. It’s a precious gift we give each other in relationships. Children are naturally trusting. God made them that way. But it doesn’t take long for our trust filled hearts to be broken. Satan is very interested in making sure that we interpret messages about ourselves that we receive from people, so it boils down to the point where we trust nobody or very few people. 

Trust is a gift that is not be given away lightly. Don’t give your heart away to anybody. That’s being reckless and setting yourself up for heartache. We can tell too much too soon, and many people do that and end up heartbroken and damaged. 

The truth is, as Charles Solomon put it: “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have been rejected. And those who have been rejected a lot“. All of us have been hurt, and our trust has been abused.

We can’t really trust anybody

I believe the bottom line as far as trust goes, and that’s also what I ended up telling my friend, is that I can’t really trust anybody. Not 100%. Because we are all human beings capable of doing terrible things under the wrong circumstances. Even the nicest among us are people who can end up doing terrible things to you or just say a random comment that pierces your heart. Only one is completely trustworthy, and only one can give us the gift of trust to pass on to other people so we dare to be known for who we really are, not who we wish we were or who we hope to become. Only Jesus is 100% trustworthy. The one who is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 ) is the only one I can always trust. He will never do anything to hurt me. He will never reject me. He will never condemn me or judge me. He will never leave me. He will never run away no matter what I do. He will always love me completely just the way I am. He is living in me and changing my life from within.

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I love the Gospel of John. And as I was praying with my friend, God reminded me of a passage from John 14. It comes right after Jesus has told his disciples that all of them, including his best friends John, Peter and James would desert him and run away. They were all telling Jesus that he could definitely trust them…but Jesus knew the truth. They weren’t trustworthy. But then in the first few verses of John 14, Jesus makes it clear who they can really trust and who they must put their trust in for everything: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” and he goes on to talk about the place he is preparing for his disciples in Heaven and then he talks about himself as “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14: 9). 

I love that piece of truth. Jesus is worthy of trust. And because I know him and he lives in me, I can dare to trust people around me. I can dare to trust them with precious pieces of my heart, because I know that even if they would abuse the information and potentially desert me, there is somebody who will never ever do that. 

I have grown to trust Jesus more and more with my heart. He already knows me completely. But I have grown to trust him with my hurts and my wounds. I trust him to be my Good Shepherd who will lead me wherever I need to go to be formed more and more into his own image (Romans 8:28-29) whether that’s through the valley of the shadow of death or to the still waters (Psalm 23). 

Torben – who is happy that his relationship with Jesus is based on who Christ is and not on something I have to muster up!

16
Oct
08

Liberating brokenness

Here is a wonderful quote by the American, Christian author and psychologist Larry Crabb about Brokenness. It’s from his book “The Pressure’s Off

You begin to enter the ‘New Way of the Spirit’ as you begin to feel the painful liberation of brokenness, not over the hurts in your life that you cannot relive, but over the pride in your life that you cannot eliminate. 

Brokenness is the path to freedom. When we see in ourselves things we wish were not there and realize we can do absolutely nothing to clean up the dirt we find, we enter into the liberating experience of brokenness

It’s so true what he says that the liberation of brokenness is painful, but it’s equally true that the the experience of brokenness is liberating! When I’m broken, I don’t have to strive and try harder. I can rest in God’s perfect will. And I get to experience freedom!

Romans 5:6 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”

Blessings, Torben – who is done blogging for today 🙂

03
Sep
08

Jesus doesn’t give up on me

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

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

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

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

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




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