Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: The Insanity of God, by Nik Ripken

"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Revelation 2:10

The fact that I can write a sentence about Jesus you can read it without major consequences would be considered a miracle by hundreds of millions of believers around the world.  In many parts of the world, believers lack Bibles and cherish the verses or pages of scripture they might possesses.  Yet, in their lives, we see the same Biblical patterns repeating themselves in today's world.

The Insanity of God follows the story of Nik Ripken, a Kentucky pastor who followed God's call to Somalia during the early to mid 1990's.  He was there during the era of American involvement and Black Hawk Down.  Ripken ran a relief agency that prolonged tens of thousands of lives...for a few years.  Eventually, lack of funds combined with security concerns forced Ripken to leave the country.

Leaving the country produced a crisis of faith in Ripken.  While he'd preserved physical lives in Somalia, (at least to his knowledge) no new believers had emerged during that time.  The few believers in the country were slaughtered by Islamic extremists.  It seemed like the time in Somalia had been pointless.  Ripken doubted the power of God to overcome darkness in places like Somalia.

After recovering stateside, Ripken set out to learn how believers in other part of the world had not only survived, but thrived, under persecution.  He traveled to the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Southeast Asia to interview believers who had been persecuted under communism.  Towards the end, he also shares stories of believers in the Islamic world.

One cannot do these stories justice in an online review.  We meet Somali believers who were martyred for observing the Lord's supper.  There's Tavian, who wrote 600 worship songs in an Eastern European prison that are now sung in churches across his country.  There's Dimitri, a Russian believer who sang praise songs every morning in prison over 17 years.  Aisha, an Islamic background believer, sings praise songs from her basement jail cell until ultimately her jailers commit their lives to Christ.

It's impossible to convey the power of these stories, but a few lessons stand out:

  • The communist youth organizations and government schools worked to alienate children from their Christian parents (147).
  • "If our family has to starve for Jesus, the let us do so with joy." (178)
  • Prison "is like seminary" for Chinese believers; there's a large Church planting movement within China's prisons (219).
  • Believers in persecution don't pray for persecution to end, they pray to be faithful through persecution (306).
  • "Freedom to believe and witness has nothing to do with the government or political system (307)."
The most important lesson from the Insanity of God, however, is that the primary cause of persecution is people surrendering their lives to Jesus (305).  The devils isn't active where he's unopposed.  Persecution is a natural byproduct of believers being obedient to Jesus.  As Ripken says: "before we can grasp the full meaning of resurrection, we first have to experience crucifixion. (308)"  Only then can the full power of a Holy God be glorified!!!

"Insanity of God" from IMB on Vimeo.

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