Archive for the 'youtube of the week' Category

03
Sep
11

this is who i am

What a beautiful song about the truth about who I am!

Blessings, Torben

27
Aug
11

Fear – part of the human condition

Fear…Most people feel it from time to time. Some people feel it all the time. A lot are crippled by it. Some have overcome some of it. The majority of people experience lots of fear, but would deny it, if you asked them. Jesus talked a lot about fear. “Fear not“, he said over and over again, seemingly understanding that his disciples both then and now need endless repetitions of this simple, yet difficult invitation.

Lots of believers feel embarrassed when they experience fear. They quote 1. John 4:18 that talks about that perfect love casts out all fear. So if I feel fear, it must be because I don’t know Jesus (enough/at all?), they reason.

I’ve come to see fear in very different ways recently. Fear is fear, and fear is a part of me as a human being. To deny that I’m often afraid, is to deny my humanness. Jesus is not against my humanness. Jesus isn’t troubled by it. Jesus isn’t ashamed at me or mad at me when I give into fear and paranoia. He understands. He has created billions of people who have all experienced fear. He was surrounded by disciples who often made decisions based on fear. He experienced fear himself. Fear of what was lying ahead when he was crying out to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.

If there is no room for fear, there is simply no room for me to be me. I admit that I have fears in my life. Right now, it seems as if I have lots of them. I look to the future filled with huge, unanswered questions, and I experience fear. I am okay with that. I don’t believe that it has to do with lack of faith. I know Jesus is. In me. In my life today. And he is in my future. I know his perfect love will cast out all fear. I know he’ll cause me to walk through decisions and realities that I’m afraid of. Even when I feel terrified, I know he’ll be in me and accept me. My level of fear doesn’t affect his level of love and acceptance for me.

Jesus doesn’t shame me when I feel fear. Jesus doesn’t question my commitment to him. Jesus doesn’t attack me. Jesus comes alongside me. Jesus is with me in my fear. He is not afraid. But he understands that I am. And he invites me to trust him in the midst of it. He wants to show me that he’ll bring me through what I’m paralyzed thinking about. He will rarely take a short-cut. He seems to like walking through the mine fields and go the most complicated paths. I would choose otherwise. But I’ve allowed him to be in charge. He knows that. And he knows that my fear and my worries are not indicators that I don’t want him to be in charge.

So I cling to him, and with my brother, Rich Mullins, I cry out to Jesus:

Hold me, Jesus, cause I’m shaking like a leaf. You’ve been King of my glory, won’t  you be my Prince of Peace

Blessings, Torben

 

10
Jun
11

erasing hell

Saw this little video this morning, and pre-ordered the book. I’ve never read anything by Francis Chan, but I’m intrigued.

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

12
Nov
10

i will trust you

Hopes turned to fear. Joy turned to tears. Life turned to death. And I sit here again. Not knowing what to do. Not knowing what to say. Not knowing what to feel.

Lost in time. Lost for words. Thinking ahead makes no sense. Thinking about yesterday hurts. So today is all I’ve got. I feel like hiding. I feel like hibernating. I feel like disappearing. But here I am.

Your plans are good. Your plans are perfect. Your love is perfect. You are perfect. You love me. Just the way I am. You don’t judge me in my darkness. You call me into the light. I want to come, but I can’t. Not yet. Not now. You wait. You invite me. It’s okay to say no.

You will always be there. You will always guide me. Even when I don’t believe that you will. You are not mad at me. You embrace me in my disappointment. You cry with me. I cry so much. Tears are tiring.But tears are all I have.

I can’t express what I feel. What’s there to say. Nothing I say will change what happened. It hurts. But I will trust you. I choose you God. The ball is back in your court. I trust that you will bring life, joy, and hope back in me again. I don’t have it in me. But you do. And you will give it to me. The way you see it’s best.

I know trust is shattered. It’s okay. You don’t judge me for my apprehensiveness. You will rebuild the trust. That’s your job. Not mine. You are the one who works out my salvation. Not me.

 

Thanks for being here. Somewhere. I will trust you!

Torben

 

05
Nov
10

you are faithful

Another beautiful song by Steven Curtis Chapman that puts appropriate words to the pain I’m going through these days, and what I choose – completely opposite of what I feel – to hold up as truth: GOD IS FAITHFUL!!

Blessings, Torben

23
Aug
10

Is that really worship?

What would you call a relationship between two people where only ‘positive’ feelings such as happiness, hope, excitement, passion, etc. were shared, but no ‘negative’ feelings including frustration, anger, sadness, bitterness, etc. were part of the discussions of the two people involved? “Shallow” seems to be the obvious word that comes to mind.

At the numerous churches I’ve attended over the years, I’ve heard the phrase: “worship is an expression of our relationship with God” countless times. If that’s really true, then I’m afraid a lot of church-goers are caught in very shallow relationships with God!

I believe corporate worship can be a place of honesty, and a beautiful expression of life, but in the majority of the churches, I’ve visited in the 40 countries I’ve been to so far, I’ve more often had the feeling of the little boy in Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, who is the only one who has the audacity to express the truth about the Emperor in the parade through the city: “The Emperor is naked!“. I’ve often felt like that. This is so empty. This is not what it’s supposed to be, or even what it could be. I know from my own life, from people in my counseling office, and from countless conversations with discipleship training school students and the average person in our churches that none of us have this happy-clappy-life-is-always-great-relationship to God that we often sing about. It simply doesn’t exist. Life isn’t like that. We end up fooling ourselves. And surely the God of the Universe who knows all our thoughts and feelings must at times be as bored with our charades as I am…?

I’ve heard much teachings over the years about what worship is, and I’ve always sat in the pews with a feeling and a thought of: “there is more to this, than what I hear here”. This simply isn’t as good as it gets. To me, worship boils down to one word: HONESTY! I believe that God, above all else, is looking for us to be honest with him. Honesty is the key factor in any relationship. If you are not honest with somebody you call your friend, and you feel you have to fabricate certain feelings in order for the two of you to be okay, it’s a shallow and empty relationship. I fear that too many of God’s children see God that way. When you examine the lyrics of  most of the popular worship songs each Sunday in our churches, it’s hard to see most of them as expressions of honesty. We have to keep up appearances. We must be happy. We must rejoice, even when we’re depressed. We must this, we should do that, we ought to feel this…..all of this points to an Old Covenant/Law mentality and understanding of who God is.

The God I know, love, and serve is interested in who I really am, and how I’m really doing. He wants to be known by me, and he is inviting me to let him know me intimately. He who is all Truth, desires nothing more than to see me live and breathe and express what I really believe, feel and think to him.

Therefore, I believe the following to be true about worship:

worship songs about God’s true character and nature are always relevant and appropriate

– worship songs about my feelings towards God are great as long as they express all different kinds of feelings I may have. Again, a relationship where I can only express what I deem to be ‘positive’ and ‘okay’ feelings, is extremely shallow

worship songs about my promises to God (“I’ll do this and this, and I’ll NEVER do that or that”) are irrelevant, since I have no clue how I’ll react in whatever difficult situation I may face in the future. On the contrary, my relationship to God is built on HIS promises to me (“He’ll never let me go, leave me or desert me!”), and that’s worth singing about!

– worship songs – and there are lots of them these days – that describe a relationship to God in sensual terms that belong more in private bedroom conversations between a husband and his wife are inappropriate and show a misunderstood view of what real intimacy with God is

– worship songs that talk about promises that God never made are obviously tragic, especially since the average church-goer doesn’t know the Bible very well, and often gets a lot of his or her theology from worship songs

– worship songs that teach Old Covenant-realities to New Covenant-believers make no sense and keep people in fear-filled relationships to God (I often New Covenantify songs that we sing at different churches – I refuse to keep inviting God to come, since he’s already in me, and I refuse to ask that God won’t take his Holy Spirit away from me, since he has joined his Holy Spirit to my spirit and would never do that!)

– worship songs that preach what God demands of us are misunderstood. God doesn’t demand anyone to know him and share life with him. He invites me to know him intimately and to be completely known by him. But the nature of any real invitation is that I can choose to say no to it, and I’m still okay with the person (God) who extended the invitation

– worship songs that teach that God doesn’t care about the consequences of our choices or isn’t mourning our sin and the death (Romans 6:23) that we experience because of that are un-biblical and filled with lies

worship songs that hint at an understanding saying that ‘negative’ emotions are a problem that we just have to get over ASAP, so we can show God our ‘positive’ emotions, end up creating guilt and shame in God’s people who need space to be honest and real

– worship songs written by people who haven’t personally experienced what they’re writing about is….a waste of time!

worship songs that don’t show that forgiveness is something God already has given to his children (IT IS FINISHED!), and not something we only get if we ask for it and repent in the right way, don’t understand the freedom of the New Covenant, and the peace and rest that Christ wants his children to know and live in.

Blessings, Torben – you’re – as always – free to comment, agree, or disagree with my words on worship!

22
Jun
10

Jesus will meet you there

Here is another beautiful song from Steven Curtis Chapman’s incredible CD Beauty Will Rise, Jesus Will Meet You There.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod, and Your staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23)

Blessings, Torben

10
May
10

better than a hallelujah (about real honesty)

My dear wife Jeannette keeps accusing me of stealing songs she tells me about and blogging about them. She may or may not have a point (…), but since I’ve been listening to this new song 20 times today, I still thought it would be okay to blog about it, and she’ll just have to get the credit as one of my primary sources of inspiration 🙂

What a majestic song Better Than A Hallelujah is. It’s written by the two ladies Sarah Hart and Chapin Hartford and performed by Amy Grant in her first Christian radio single in seven years. The lyrics of it resonated straight away in deep places of my inner being:

God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes
God loves a drunkard’s cry, the soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries, of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

A woman holding on for life, a dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
Tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out


I love the expression of the deep truth that  a true, intimate relationship with Jesus has so much more to do with just being open, honest, raw and real with him than it’s about singing, dancing, or doing stuff for him.

I love the truth that’s being expressed that our mess is, somehow and for reasons we can hardly fathom, beautiful to God. What we may deem as unworthy whining and complaining, he hears as honest worship and relationship.

God loves for us to approach him as naked as we dare to be. He invites us to an open, honest relationship with him. One where we come to him without promises (I will do this and this) or excuses (I will never do this and this). Just come the way you are. Approach the throne of grace with the confidence (Hebrews 4:16) that comes from knowing that it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be on your journey. It’s okay to be a mess. God loves messes. His love shines the brightest through our messes. Contrary to popular opinion in and outside of the church life is not about being well put together and be in control. God loves his messes, where he can freely shine through. He gathers your tears, he hears your cries, he longs for the intimacy of hearing you pour out whatever is inside of you – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

God has invited me deeper into this kind of relationship with him the past many years. At first I was hesitant. I feared that it would be irreverent to be brutally honest with him. He is God, after all. I also thought that I had to censor my words to him. Then a day came where God in a divine-stating-the-obvious-moment told me that he knows all my thoughts and feelings already, so I really don’t have to bother censoring anything.

I looked around me and saw few people who dared to go to the deep places with him. And I was afraid that I just fooling myself, that he wasn’t really calling me. But he is calling me to a deep, honest, real, messy, fun, crazy, exciting, insane, frustrating, but never boring relationship with him. The call is there. Do we dare respond in honest ways, or are you contend singing nice songs about God and his love (even though you don’t believe them), pray polite prayers (even though you’ve forgotten why you pray), accept lies you believe about him and yourself (even though they make your life and your relationships shallow and empty), and just try to make it through life acting, pretending and keeping up good, religious appearances?

Blessings, Torben – Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a hallelujah!

03
May
10

“it is what it is”

I have many bad habits. One of them happens to really upset my wife. And with good reason. It’s a sentence I say a bit too often. It’s a sentence of giving up, giving in, and resignation. It’s not a statement of surrender, but of resigning and accepting that things just won’t change no matter what I say/think/do. It’s actually a statement of believing in something along the lines of fate.

Often I say this when things just don’t work out the way I wanted them to. My hopes are crushed, and I say with a sigh of resignation: “it is what it is“. It may sound harmless enough, but too often it’s very ugly and starts me on a downward spiral where I forget that God is in control. Even when things are messy and life doesn’t turn out the way I wanted them, or even according to God’s own best case scenario, he is still in control.

Yesterday, as we were driving home from church, I was lamenting about my own shortcomings and the ugliness of my flesh that comes out when I accuse myself of not doing enough to get to know people at church, not caring enough about them, or whatever aspect of my life it is that my flesh chooses to attack on that particular day. My wife stopped me in my tracks, when I had, once again, concluded that it is what is. She heard the resignation, and the hopelessness in my voice. “Will it ever be any different?”, was one of the questions behind my frustrations.

Jeannette told me how troubled she is when she hears “it is what it is“. And she explained what she hears, when I say those words. An hour later I was in our car on my way to play a football game, and somehow I knew I needed to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s remarkable CD “Beauty Will Rise“. This CD may be the most personal and intimate CD I’ve ever listened to. It truly is Steven Curtis Chapman’s own journal set to music as he has been walking through the grief process after losing his 5-year old daughter Maria Sue in a tragic car accident two years ago. I have listened to that CD several times, and it always brings tears to my eyes. I haven’t lost a small child, but I know parts of the pain Steven so bravely shares in these songs. Yesterday, God used one of these powerful songs to minister to me.

The song is called Our God Is In Control, and it speaks about the true hope we have as Christians of someday living on a new and re-created earth where all evil is gone and everything is just the way it should be. A couple of lines spoke to me about my situation here and now, and it added some valuable truth to my “it is what it is” statements.

Steven Curtis Chapman writes these precious pieces of truth:

This is not how it should be. This is not how it could. But this is how it. And our God is in control“, and “This is not where we planned to be when we started this journey. But this is where we are. And our God is in control

Tears were streaming down my face as God spoke to me about this truth. It’s true that there things that just have to be done, and there are lots of circumstances that turn out differently than I hope. And sometimes, “it just is what is, BUT (and the truth about what you and I really believe always comes after the “but” in our sentences!) God is in control!”

There is a huge difference between just saying “it is what it is“, and saying “it is what is, and our God is in control

I appreciate this reminder. I appreciated hearing God’s heart for me. He understands that it’s easy for me and his other children to get discouraged. But he also knows that I need to be reminded that HE IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL!

Blessings, Torben – here is a video with the beautiful song Our God Is In Control




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