Archive for the 'songs' Category

14
May
13

Waiting on God

Wow!

Torben

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02
Aug
11

Heaven, the New Earth – enough with all the Hell-talk!

I guess it’s about time for me to write a blog about the Good News about eternity. A couple of my blog entries have focused on a couple of books, Love Wins and Erasing Hell, that talk a lot about issues of eternity.

I also picked up Randy Alcorn’s 500+ page book, Heaven, to see what he would be writing about what I have to look forward to. It’s a long book. A very long book in fact. I wanted to just put in some of the important quotes that I enjoyed and was encouraged by through reading this mammoth of a book.

 

“Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an unending church service…We have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after the another, forever and ever, amen. And our heart sinks. Forever and ever? That’s it? That’s the good news? And then we sigh and feel guilty that we are not more ‘spiritual’. We lose heart, and we turn once more to the present to find what life we can” (John Eldredge in his book Desire, where he talks about eternal life with Christ being a lot more than what most Christians dare to believe)

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were preoccupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven, and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither” (C. S. Lewis)

“God will make the new earth his dwelling place…Heaven and earth will then no longer be separated as they are now, but they will be one. But to leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come” (Anthony Hoekema)

“Understanding and anticipating the physical nature of the New Earth corrects a multitude of errors. It frees us to love the world that God has made, without guilt, while saying no to the world corrupted by our sin. It reminds us that God himself gave us the earth, gave us a love for the earth, and will delight to give us the New Earth” (Randy Alcorn)

“In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not” (C. S. Lewis)

“Everything is gone that ever made Jerusalem, like all cities, torn apart, dangerous, heartbreaking, seamy. You walk the streets in peace now. Small children play unattended in the parks. No stranger goes by whom you can’t imagine a fast friend. The city has become what those who loved it always dreamed and what in their dreams she always was. The new Jerusalem. That seems to be the secret of Heaven. The new Chicago, Leningrad, Hiroshima, Beirut. The new bus driver, hot-dog man, seamstress, hairdresser. The new you, me, everybody” (Frederick Buechner)

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating” (Simone Weil)

“I meet many faithful Christians who, in spite of their faith, are deeply disappointed in how their lives have turned out. Much of the distress of these good people comes from a failure to realize that their life lies before them. That they are coming to the end of their present life, life in the body is of little significance. What is of significance is the kind of person they have become. Circumstances and other people are not in control of an individual’s character or of the life that lies endlessly before us in the kingdom of God” (Dallas Willard)

These were lots of different quotes talking about eternal life on the New Earth with my friend Jesus and many, many other friends! I can’t wait! I know some Christians who don’t look forward to life on the New Earth. Maybe they think we’ll be in some weird, boring place? Maybe they are afraid they’ll miss out on something here on the Earth? I don’t understand them. Whether my life is great and I enjoy my everyday situation, or whether I’m walking through a difficult time in my life, one thing remains the same in me: my desire to experience the New Earth with Jesus! My desire to be completely free from my flesh. My desire to reconnect with loved ones and experience life to the fullest for all eternity! To quote the late, great Keith Green:

You know, I look around at the world and I see all the beauty that God made. I see the forest and the trees and all the things. And says in the Bible that He made them is six days and I don’t know if they’re a literal six days or not. Scientists would say no, some theologians would say yes. But I know that Jesus Christ has been preparing a home for me and for some of you, for two thousand years. And if the world took six days and that home two thousand years, hey man, this is like living in a garbage can compared to what’s going on up there.

And I conclude this blog entry with some of the last words of the Bible, written by John, the disciple Jesus loved, who ended the Revelation God gave him like this:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon”. Amen, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22)

 

Blessings, Torben

17
Apr
11

the god of paradoxes

I wrote a blog entry about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, where I found God to be described in terms that may have made perfect sense to Rob Bell, but in my opinion is far from the more complex picture of God that we find described in the Bible:

God is love, but he is also holy.

Jesus is the lamb of God, but he is also the Lion of Judah

Life comes from death

The first shall be last

If you want to be a leader in the kingdom, serve

The real leader uses a towel to dry peoples’ feet not a stick to control people

God wants for all people to choose him as their God, and he has made provision for that to be possible through his son Jesus’ death on the cross, but he is also aware of the tragic fact that some people will not choose to receive the free gift of life and righteousness that he is offering them

Blessed are those who mourn…

These are just some of the many examples of the paradoxes of who God is, and what he is up to. I can’t figure him out completely. I don’t understand a lot of the things he does or chooses to not do. I just don’t.

God is God, and I’m not. He created me in his own image. I have a spirit that has come alive when everything in me that was against God was crucified and buried with Christ (Galatians 2:20). So I am joined to God and rest in the fact that nothing and nobody can ever change that (Romans 8). I rest in the fact that my faith doesn’t have to make perfect sense. I rest in the fact that a lot of it makes sense anyway, but I’m not inclined to desperately try to make sense out of the paradoxes that are in the Bible. These paradoxes cause me to wonder, think, chat with God, and essentially worship him.

A Christianity without paradoxes is flat, weak and ultimately very uninteresting. It may feel good for a little while, if I can explain away the things in Christianity that I don’t understand or agree with, but it has a very short shelf life, because it’s not founded in the truth of who God is. Lots of people throughout the ages of the Church have tried to explain away the paradoxes about God that they are uncomfortable with. There is nothing new under the sun, when that happens.

I will end this blog entry by quoting an excerpt from an excellent review of Love Wins from Christianity Today:

“This brings us to the other problem with liberalism: Ironically, its passion to make Jesus more accessible to the contemporary mind ends up making Jesus less interesting. To be fair, many people become Christians as a result of hearing the liberal gospel. And one suspects that Bell’s book will have this effect for some. But liberalism has never been able to win a large following for Jesus. Too often, its Jesus sounds like an ideal people already believe in, so why bother? (…)Most Christians grasp that to demythologize one doctrine is to make the others less coherent. They recognize that a Christianity that teaches about “a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross” (H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic summary of liberalism) does not reflect the thickness of biblical revelation nor lived reality. And they see that when all is said and done, there is no painful contradiction between the love and justice of God. That in the end, not only does love win, but justice, too.”

So, I guess, at this point in 2011, I land in an interesting, and seemingly small camp in terms of what I believe: I am a young(ish) man who is too liberal for the conservatives, and too conservative for the liberals 🙂

Blessings, Torben

09
Apr
11

a small god

Dear blog readers!

I wonder if there are still any of you out there after this very extended hiatus for my blog. Anyway, it’s not that I’ve been without thoughts, questions, insights, struggles, victories, sorrows and even some smiles these last months, and we’ll see what I end up choosing to write about these coming months.

It’s not often that I find myself reading something that’s truly hot and the thing lots of people talk about. I tend to have the perspective that I wait until the initial noise and fire is over, and then I’ll decide if it was something that was worth looking into. (And yes, I’m aware that some of you after reading that statement are tempted to write me off as a 74-year old who is out of touch with time, but in reality, I’m still only 34 🙂 )

But last week I did actually decide to pick up mega-church pastor Rob Bell’s latest and hotly debated book, Love Wins. I read it, and I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts on the book and some of the topics it talks about.

I studied at a very postmodern-focused university in Denmark, and I have studied postmodernism at length, and I’m well aware of that for a postmodern reader (which most younger, Western people are) the very fact that I choose to write my comments and choose to disagree with large portions of Rob Bell’s book means that I’m judging him. Let me make it clear from the get-go: I’m not Rob Bell’s judge. I have no intention or desire to judge this man that I’ve never met. And just because I disagree with some of the things he’s writing, does not mean that I judge him or think that everything I’m saying myself is perfect and beyond reproach. However, in order for us to be able to converse about what we believe, we also have to be honest when we disagree with what other people are saying when we find that it touches on something that’s precious to us.

Sometimes when I read or hear about somebody saying something about God or his kingdom that I don’t think is true, I think: “I think he is wrong. I hope he is right. What are the consequences if he is wrong?“. I don’t have the same thoughts after reading Love Wins. “I think he is wrong. I actually don’t hope that he is right. And I think there are very severe consequences for many people if he is wrong” are more along the lines of my thoughts after reading the book.

In a sense there is little point to writing my thoughts on this book by +100,000 Facebook fans pastor Rob Bell. Who cares what I think? If I disagree with him, I risk being ostracized as being ‘negative’, ‘judgmental’, ‘legalist’, ‘hateful’ or whatever the term might be. Couldn’t I just leave it to people to make up their own minds about his book and issues of salvation, Heaven and Hell? Sure, and I don’t have any illusions about my opinion being particularly relevant to other people, but I do believe that Rob Bell touches on some things that are dear to me, and where I do find it important enough to voice my concerns.

I don’t think that Rob Bell purposefully is trying to deceive people with his theology. I believe he believes what he believes. I am, however, troubled about some of his opinions and his ways of sharing it.

I enjoy books by authors such as W. Paul Young, who wrote the bestseller The Shack, and C. S. Lewis with his many books touching on issues of eternity including The Great Divorce, The Chronicles of Narnia and others. These are all works of fiction. And how I wished that Rob Bell would’ve written his book as fiction. Because, quite frankly, a lot of it is a lot more fiction than theology! C. S. Lewis writes in his preface to The Great Divorce: “I beg the readers to remember that this is a fantasy…the transmortal conditions are solely and imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the afterworld“.

Rob Bell, however, writes Love Wins as a book of theology. He is asking lots of questions, and he gives what he says are biblical answers to these questions. Some will read it and be relieved. Some will read the book and be happy. Some will just be utterly confused.

I read the book and came away with the thought: “that sounds like a very small God“.

Everyone of us stand in immediate danger of falling into the trap that the French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau described like this:

God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor

I felt I read 200 pages about a god created in Rob Bell’s image. I didn’t find that god very attractive.

I could write lots of examples of why I didn’t find the god or even the world presented to me very attractive. I just don’t think that serves a point. I do want to make a comment about the usage of the Bible in the book. I found it troubling that even though it’s in perfect line with a postmodern understanding of how we view literature and meta-narratives where we believe we can pick and choose and respect the context when it works for us, and ignore it when it doesn’t, it was sad to see how that’s how I saw the Bible being used in Love Wins.

Whenever the context of the primary hearers and readers was useful to stress a point it was used, and whenever the context would complicate matters or even disprove the point that Rob Bell was trying to make, the context was ignored or misunderstood. That I find troubling.

We already live in a day and age where most Christians know the Bible very poorly. I remember a couple of years ago where I asked long-term Discipleship Training School Leaders at various Youth With A Mission missionary training centers in Asia, Europe and North America the same question: “what is the biggest difference between Discipleship Training School students today and 10-15 years ago?” Every single one of these missionaries answered in a similar way: “the students know God and the Bible less and less, and we have to almost start from scratch and assume that they simply don’t know the God they claim to believe in, or the Biblical truths that they claim to follow

We know the Bible less and less, and that’s where I find it troubling when pastors, leaders and authors exemplify pick-and-choose-Bible-reading. It is, after all, part of our calling as leaders to be responsible about not misleading people we have a position of authority over.

If you want to read a long review that talks about some of the many questionable points in Love Wins, you can read Kevin DeYoung’s blog here. I disagree with some of his points, and some of his tone is a bit too harsh, but especially some of the points are spot-on and very important aspects to consider (see point 2 – Historical Problems, point 3 – Exegetical Problems, and point 7 – A Different God).

I hope Love Wins will cause the readers of the book to chat with God about who he really is and what he really does have to say about salvation, Heaven and Hell. I have fears that people will be mislead. I have fears that there will be sad consequences for buying into some of the messages of this book. But at the end of this blog and at the end of each day, I choose to believe that God is still strong, and his Spirit is alive and well in all his children and will help them discern what is Truth which will set them free (John 14:6, John 8:32), and what is just wishful thinking-theology, which we are all in danger of buying into.

I want to know Christ deeper, and if the conversation about these questions lead people who don’t know Jesus at all as their Savior and Friend to get to know him and experience life in him here and in the afterlife, and if it leads people who know Jesus already, but don’t know him well to get to know him better, I rejoice. If that’s not the case. And I fear it’s not. It makes me sad.

Blessings, Torben – I’ll write another blog entry about why it’s problematic when we create a god in our own image, and why a God that makes perfect sense in my eyes, and is without any paradoxes, is a small god

03
Feb
10

never underestimate my jesus

I love this simple Relient K song called For The Moments I Feel Faint. I’m in a place where all I can do is holding desperately on to Jesus. And thank God he never lets go of me or gives up on me! Never underestimate my Jesus!

Blessings, Torben

20
Jan
10

Proud to belong to Jesus

It was my 33rd birthday yesterday. I had a splendid day, and I don’t feel too different from those days in my past when I was 32 🙂 A good friend of mine wrote something in a birthday greeting that made me think: “I am glad you do what you’re best at: active service for our Lord that you’re so proud to belong to“. The last sentence stopped me in my tracks. Am I truly proud to belong to God? And the answer from my spirit and heart was a resounding “YES”.

Yes, I am proud to belong to Jesus! I am proud that I belong to the Savior of the world! I am glad that I know, love and follow the only hope for all people on this planet! I am proud that I know the Gospel of truth about Jesus that is setting people free! I am proud to say that I am a very different person today than just a few years ago, because Jesus Christ is changing me! I am not ashamed of the Gospel! I am not ashamed of knowing the truth!

I listened to Delirious?’ old song Not Ashamed of the Gospel, and I felt my heart soar. The song’s lyrics are very true for me. While I am sad to see many people I know who had a stronger desire to follow Christ 10-15 years ago than they do today, I am so happy that I know/sense/feel a much stronger desire in me to truly know Christ than I had 15 years ago or even 5 years ago. Christ has my attention, and I truly want to know him in the ways that Paul so eloquently describe right here:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead”

(Philippians 3:7-11)

With Paul I boast in the Lord! I boast in who God is!

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). I have seen the power of the gospel. I have seen God set people free. Just yesterday I had the privilege of seeing a friend stepping out into a greater experience of freedom, because he encountered the Truth who is Jesus himself (John 14:6).

Blessings, Torben

17
Aug
09

Living as God’s dwelling place

The worship song Better Is One Day was written by Matt Redman quite a few years ago and have been recorded by Redman, Chris Tomlin, Kutless, etc. and has become a fan favorite in a lot of contemporary churches all over the world. This song also made it into the repertoire of the church in Nuuk we visited during our recent trip to Greenland. I shared with the small group that we were gathered with while singing this song a revelation that God showed me a while ago. It’s a wonderful catchy tune and the lyrics of longing after God are powerful. But not true anymore…

The lyrics to the song are taken from Psalm 84 where David cries out to God in this way:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearn, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (verses 1-2)…Better is one day in your courts that a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked (verse 10)”

David is desperate to spend more time in God’s dwelling place which in Old Testament/Old Covenant days was the Temple of God. The temple that David so desperately desired to build for God so they could spend more time together, but where David had to accept that God had chosen David’s son, Solomon, to be the one who were to build the Temple in Jerusalem. David longed to come in and encounter God and be in God’s dwelling place. God’s dwelling place was a place outside of David. A place he longed to travel to and spend time in. A place that didn’t belong to David, but where he longed to be welcomed as a guest. Even if he just had to stay outside in the courts, David would be excited, because he would know that at least he would be close to the presence of God.

This was David’s reality and it was the reality of all believers in the Old Testament times before the New Covenant was set in effect after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the permanent coming of the Holy Spirit. But this is not the reality of any New Covenant believers, and therefore not the reality of any of God’s children today! We don’t have to travel to Jerusalem or somewhere else to visit God’s dwelling place. We don’t need anybody to intercede on our behalf, because we fear that we are not welcome. We don’t have to be afraid that the Temple will be shut down for us, because we have committed some sin or just don’t have the right heart attitude.

The great news of the New Covenant, of the new agreement between God and his children, is that we are now God’s dwelling place! And that dwelling place sure is lovely!

1. Corinthians 3:16-17 puts this piece of truth this way: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God’s, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are

Wow…I am the dwelling place of God! I am God’s lovely dwelling place! I can rest in that. I don’t have to go anywhere, do anything, wear special clothes, eat special food, attend any fancy ceremonies or anything like that to approach God, because he is already inside of me. And he has declared that the dwelling place of himself is holy, and I’m that dwelling place, and therefore I am holy! I am as holy and righteous and blameless as the Temple in the Old Covenant was. God lives in me, rules in me, encounters me in me. And I can always fellowship with him, because he is right here inside of me.

rose

Stop praying like David!

We have to stop using language from the Old Covenant and talk about it as if that is our reality today. It is not! We are no longer in the Old Covenant. If you want to read through a book that talks about the difference between the Covenants, and why David, Abraham, Moses, etc. would be jealous that they didn’t get to live in the New Covenant days, that you and I experience, go to the book of Hebrews.

We have to stop inviting God to come. He came. He is here. He is in me. You only invite somebody to come who isn’t here. He doesn’t need an invitation. He is already here.

We have to stop praying with David from Psalm 51: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me“. He will not take his Holy Spirit away from a true believer in the New Covenant. In the Old Testament/Covenant days the Holy Spirit came at different times as a visitor. Today he is here permanently living in each of God’s children. As Paul puts it in 1. Corinthians 6:17 “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him“. Not two separate spirits. One spirit. Just one. We are one with Christ and his Spirit will never ever leave us. No matter what we do/think/feel or say he will not leave us. For David there was a real fear that the Holy Spirit would leave him. That fear is not a part of the New Covenant. Let’s appreciate this miracle and stop praying as if we were still a part of the Old Covenant.

Maybe we could change the lyrics to Better Is One Day to something like this:

“How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord almighty. For my soul longs and even faints for you. For within me you encounter me and I’m satisfied in your presence. I sing beneath the shadow of your wings.

Better is one day here with you, better is one day here with you, better is one day here with you than the reality I lived in before I came to know you

One thing I ask, and I would seek to see Your beauty, to find You inside of me and have you reveal Your beauty to me.

Better is one day here with you, better is one day here with you, better is one day here with you than the reality I lived in before I came to know you”

(I’m by no means a great song writer, so if you, dear reader, have a better New Covenant-reality-inspired version of this song, you’re very welcome to post it here!)

Here is a video with the old version of this song 🙂 :

Blessings, Torben




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