Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Insanity of God, by Nik Ripkin

This book is in two parts. It was written by a man who is a Pastor by training and served as a Pastor for several years. For security reasons, this author goes by the name of Nik Ripkin, which is not his real name. He uses the first half of his book to spend time sharing his own story and to tell his story of his years in Somalia, which he calls "Somaliland," and he vividly describes the evil, heartbreak and brokenness he witnessed often, as well as some of the more positive episodes. He shares his emotions through it all as he struggled to reconcile his concept of a loving, all-powerful God with the brokenness that he saw on a mass scale, and was unable to fix. The second half of his book reveals his visits to other countries of persecution, particularly the former Soviet Union and China, as well as undisclosed Muslim nations. Dr. Nik Ripkin shares about his emotional ups and downs as he talked with severely persecuted believers, and listened to many of them share his stories with him. He shares his lessons, particularly the need to embrace the cost of following Jesus, as embodied in the lives of so many brave believers who were willing, even glad, to follow Jesus regardless of where it took them and how much it cost them. He concludes by declaring that we in the West, by seeking to end severe global persecution, have been guilty of focusing on the wrong issue.

This has to be the most uncomfortable and unsettling book that I have ever read. I have read other books and materials on suffering and on severe global persecution, as well as on the cost of discipleship. None has unsettled and convicted me as this book has. As evangelism, especially in face-to-face contexts, is my greatest known weakness, this author's declarations about the Western Church's lack of obedience to the Great Commission (as a rule), is the cause of our lack of persecution as the bold witness of so many around the world, is the reason for so much global religious persecution. Having heard Dr. Nik speak on a webcast on The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I was not surprised at his conclusion. As an introvert who doesn't like to interact with people in face-to-face contexts and who is loathe even to make small talk, I felt undone by his strong statements on witnessing, obedience and persecution. Where does this leave me? I would wonder with dismay. I felt a wide variety of emotions, including sadness at the comparative lack of spiritual depth in our Western churches in yes, in my own life, that I read about in the lives of this author, his wife and family, and in the lives of those he listened to and worked with. I felt that I was reading the Book of Acts all over again and felt a keen longing to see God's hand work in this way in America. But I would wonder: Was I willing to pay the price? Were many of my fellow American Christians also willing to pay the price? Dr. Nik's book is easy to read in a literary sense, though it is hard on the emotions. I found the first half of the book a bit slow but I found that the pace picked up in the second half of the book.

This book is aimed at the Christian community. Non-Christians who stumble upon it will likely, at least at first, find all the theology of persecution and the emphasis on suffering as sheer foolishness. But if they are interested in Islam or are themselves Muslims, this book may be powerfully enlightening and may introduce them to the God Who loves everyone, including Muslims. For obvious reasons, this book is too graphic and disturbing to be read by anyone under 18. I recommend all Pastors and many in church leadership, to read this book to educate themselves on persecuted Christians and deepen their own faith and discipleship. I recommend that they read it to emphasize issues in preaching and teaching that usually are neglected in pulpits and in Bible studies in America and other parts of the Western church. In this day of terrorist attacks, as needed, making the news and causing much "Islamophobia," this book's focus on God's love for Muslims will serve as a corrective and remind readers that no one is beyond God's grace, including Muslims including the radicalized element in Islam. So all adult Christians ought to read this book even though it is uncomfortable reading. Read, learn and pass on your lessons.

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